The Krays: Kill Order is a new UK feature-length documentary featuring interviews with key former associates of the twins. It explores their rise to celebrity status and the some of the key criminality that made them famous.
Released to tap into renewed interest in London’s notorious Kray twins following the premiere of Legend starring Tom Hardy as both Reggie and Ronald, The Krays: Kill Order is a somewhat fascinating but messy bird’s-eye view of the pair’s criminal activities from those that witnessed them up close and personal.
Narrated and presented by former British soldier turned crime writer Bernard O’Mahoney, who became friends with the Krays after their incarceration, the ninety-minute documentary benefits from some terrific insight from close confidantes of the twins, those who carried out their criminal bidding, witnessed violence first-hand and knew the ex-boxers personally.
Those interviewed include Freddie Foreman, a driver and fixer for the Krays, who discusses his part in the murder of Jack “the Hat” McVitie. After being knifed to death by Reggie Kray, Foreman was tasked with discarding the body. A former hitman for the twins, Foreman was sentenced to 10 years for the crime. He has since admitted involvement in other killings.
Maureen Flanagan, a 1960s model whose relationship to the Krays began when she worked as a hairdresser cutting their mother’s hair, also features extensively as do The Firm’s heavies and rivals such as Frankie Fraser, Eddie Richardson, Albert Donoghue, Lenny Hamilton, Billy Frost, Jimmy Tippett Snr., and Albert Chapman.
Yet, while the film has access to some of the Kray gang’s principle members, there is an unsurprising arms-length approach to their revelations, dodging individual responsibility and deflecting it onto others or taking the opportunity to bludgeon the Kray’s self-made celebrity. The negativity towards London’s infamous gangland warriors is, however, nicely offset by the still-beautiful Maureen Flanagan (an erstwhile actress of swinging sixties sex comedies) who turned down three proposals from Reggie but still clings to the romanticised legend of the convicted pair.
Less forgivable though is the poor production values of The Krays: Kill Order. Even with episodic chapter points it still feels a little incoherent with so many names dropped it’s difficult to keep up without a good understanding of the Krays’ activities beforehand. There were even times when subtitles would have helped for clarity. The film also motors along, brushing over topics before we’ve had a chance to digest them – such as the Kray brothers’ homosexuality and how this played into their ability to divert or coerce political opinion and Reggie’s relationship with his first wife Frances Shea and her apparent suicide.
The Krays: Kill Order is also hamstrung by Bernard O’Mahoney’s front-of-stage involvement. His talent as an author, researcher and interviewer is not in question, but his stilted, almost awkward narration and presentation makes for such uneasy viewing it’s more uncomfortable than hearing one Kray gang member recall the moment Reggie impaled a target to a kitchen floor. There are nuggets to excite the senses of those interested in the exploits of the gruesome British gangsters, and a smattering of interesting stories recalled by those that stood shoulder to shoulder with the Krays, but it’s an otherwise inconsistent and messy feature-length documentary. It’ll sit better with those already familiar with the brothers and their gang, than those seeking an insightful introduction.