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Krays - Geordie Connection

Epi // Unrated // October 3, 2006
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Paul Mavis | posted September 27, 2006 | E-mail the Author

The Krays: Geordie Connection purports, according to the DVD cover, to "investigate the minds of the most notorious gangsters in UK [United Kingdom] history!" and that "Ron and Reg [Kray] confess ALL!" Hardly. The Krays: Geordie Connection is a stultifying mess of recent interviews with British hoods, combined with wretched camcorder video documenting real-life gangster funerals and reunions, all tied together with Steve Wraith's personal story of becoming the notorious Kray's "Geordie" connection. In no way does it explain anything about the Krays; it doesn't go over their history or their exploits. There are no confessions, as advertised, and no investigation into their minds.

A little history of British gangsterism might help here (since the DVD takes it for granted that you know the Kray's history). Ronald and Reginald Kray, identical twins, were born in the East End of London in 1933. Their father, a petty thief, ran off after the Second World War, and the twins relied heavily on their mother for emotional stability. Taking up boxing as young men, their careers were cut short when they were called up for National Service (Britain's form of the draft). However, they proved incorrigible, and were dishonorably discharged. Returning to London, they bought a small snooker hall, and began in earnest, a life of crime. By the mod, swinging 1960's, the Kray brothers had managed a curious feat: they were popular society figures, famous with the general public because of their nightclub ownership, while at the same time they were criminal overlords of the East End, involved in hijacking goods, strong-arm robbery, extortion and murder. Although the police knew of their criminal activities for years, the Kray's violent reputations (including a penchant for torturing their victims), kept witnesses silent. Finally, the Krays were implicated in the deaths of Frank Mitchell, George Cornell, and Jack "The Hat" McVitie. Sentenced to long terms in 1969, Ronnie Kray (a vicious paranoid schizophrenic, who many believed psychologically dominated his brother Ron) would live out the rest of his life in prison. Ronnie would be released from prison just prior to his death from cancer. Another Kray brother, Charlie, also a criminal, would die in prison as well.

Enter Steve Wraith, a Geordie (a Geordie is a term for anyone born near the Tyne River, in the North East of England -- like anyone born in the East End of London is called a "Cockney") who became obsessed with the Kray brothers, and who contacted them in prison. He quickly proved a favorite with the brothers, and soon became their business manager, handling all of their financial deals outside of prison; primarily, selling merchandise and organizing "charity" events with organized crime members as "celebrity guests."

Is this all sounding rather fantastic? Well, you're not alone, and that's the main source of disgust when you watch The Krays: Geordie Connection. A cult has developed in England over the exploits of these "hard men" as they are called, a cult of admiration for the former adventures of these gangsters, that feeds on nostalgia for the 1960's along with the noted hooliganism associated with English football. I suppose it's no different than the gangsterism envy that rules the hip hop culture here. What is disturbing is that these documentaries (two other similar titles from Gangster Videos, Roy Shaw: Brute Force and Mad Frank: Britain's Most Dangerous Criminal! are also reviewed here at DVDTalk) are part of a huge industry that glorifies these vicious thugs, perpetuating their perverse psychology by being marketing these docs to disaffected British youths, who eat them up. Several people in the documentary state that they're not glorifying the gangsters' efforts -- including Steve Wraith. But in the extras, there's plenty of footage of Steve and the other people making lots of money, telling their stories, while winding up their speeches with the moral equivalent of, "Hey, don't do this yourself."

A further criminal act is the actual production of this documentary. The DVD cover claims the documentary is filmed in "Gangstervision." From what I can gather, "Gangstervision" amounts to nothing more than shaking the camera around violently, and recording the cheap camcorder video at such a burn rate that it looks like they dropped the A-bomb for a lighting source. It's an aggressively ugly design that includes a lot of filler shots of no particular interest, with no point other than to attain a false, gritty "realism."

The DVD:

The Video:
As stated above, The Krays: Geordie Connection is one of the ugliest videos I've seen in quite some time (and I'm the guy that reviewed Mama's Family. I know they did it on purpose, to make it hard and tough looking. Well, it's artifice, and incompetent to boot.

The Audio:
The audio thumps with techno grooves that ultimately get on your nerves -- because they're the same two tracks. The sound levels are way up there, so you won't have any trouble hearing the various musings of these "good-hearted" criminals. What you will have is an almost impossible task of understanding the various Cockney and Geordie accents because there are no subtitles or closed captioning available. I'm a regular viewer of Britain's longest running soap, Coronation Street, and I thought I could handle the accents here. Nope. It took quite a while to finally understand most of what was said. Unfortunately, once I did decipher the words, I found them to be banal and disingenuous.

The Extras:
There are many extras on The Krays: Geordie Connection, and all of them are totally useless. Half of them didn't even work on my several players, and the other half proved tedious in the extreme. Talk the Talk is an ad for some kind of speaking tour (there's no explanation). Gangster Trailer is just that, a trailer for another gangster DVD. Biggs Night Out is a reunion and charitable event for Ronnie Biggs, a member of the gang that perpetrated 1963's Great Train Robbery in England. Again, it's a largely pointless excuse to humanize a bunch of criminals, and apologists for criminals. And Free at Last is unedited footage of Reg Kray's funeral. If you find endless shots of people walking in the streets, along with a hearse making its way to the cemetery, for almost 40 minutes -- more power to you.

Final Thoughts:
The Krays: Geordie Connection, directed by Liam Galvin, won't help explain the gangster mind, as the cover promises, but it may turn you into a lawbreaker, after watching 147 minutes of "Gangstervision." Its brain-numbing effects are criminal. I can't imagine this documentary from Gangster Videos being of any interest to the average American viewer -- mainly because most Americans may not be familiar with the players. Nor will the average viewer find much explanation of who these criminals really are, just a misguided justification for their exploits. Skip it.

Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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