The UK have always had a weird obsession with Ronnie and Reggie Kray, despite being criminals of the highest order. Engaging in organised crime and torture, they hold a special place in the popular consciousness in the same way that outdated comedy shows still hold a warm place in the hearts of many.
Krays: Code of Silence attempts to do for Leonard “Nipper” Read, the copper that decided he would try to bring down the Kray empire what Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables did for Elliot Ness and his mission to stop Al Capone.
The main issue with the film is that it never really gets what it’s trying to do. In a way it wants to be about the “good guys” trying to stop these criminals from running their empire, but in showing what tactics had to be done to get there, it comes off that the police are just as corrupt and nasty as the crooks they chase. Arguably it’s commendable to be that honest about what went into policing in the 60s and 70s, but in this time of introspection about the role police have society it feels outdated to just play the film like an extended episode of The Sweeney.
It’s gangster credentials are sorely lacking also. Despite doing his best, Stephen Moyer is let down by a laughably inept script that aims for tough and hard boiled but comes across as amateur sub-Guy Ritchie tough guy speak. Moyer is the best thing about the film, and while it has a feel of a straight-to-DVD release to tide dads over until he next Rise of the Footsoldier or Green Street movie comes to a Tesco shelf, Moyer attempts to bring complexity to this real life figure.
It’s a pity because looking at the actual law follower, and one who is as unassuming as Read is fertile ground for a film, but the script doesn’t appear to know how to fully deal with its more limited surroundings. It at times does look like outtakes from a lesser story arc from EastEnders. By the end you don’t actually feel as if the film has told you anything new about the man who hunted the Krays. There’s a Michael Mann quality to the concept that the cop and the criminals are reverse images, compounded by similar backgrounds in the working class and boxing, but nothing is explored enough for this to feel like it’s making strides towards something great.
What it does cement is that Moyer remains an actor who disappears into roles and continually surprises audiences over and over.
Code of Silence is now available on DVD and Digital.