Directed by: #BenMole
Written by: #LukeBailey
London has always tended to have a chequered love affair with its most notorious criminals. Unsure whether to venerate or vilify them the city instead chooses to hold onto and retell their stories – cautionary tales to stun and astound the weary traveller who doesn't yet understand the machinations of a London that lies just beneath the surface. Characters such as Jack The Ripper have passed into legend, others such as Sweeney Todd were written into legend, and more recently gangsters such as The Kray Twins have been passed off as legend, quite literally in the 2015 film dedicated to the sibling psychopaths which was titled as such.
To date there have been countless documentaries and at least four feature films trying to get to the heart or the missing soul of London's most popular gangsters. Most notable of these are the 1990 self-titled thriller, The Krays starring the Kemp brothers, and the aforementioned Legend, which broke the mould by having Tom Hardy play the role of both twins. Added to this list now comes Code Of Silence, a film that also tries to take a different track when retreading the tired old story by focusing not so much on the murderous malcontents themselves, but more on the copper trying to bring them to book.
Detective Leonard 'Nipper' Read tried to nick the Kray Twins in 1965 but ended up losing all of his witnesses to the culture of fear that permeated London at the time. Two years later he got the opportunity to try again and this time he was determined not to fail. Code Of Silence follows Read (Moyer) and his team as they pore over thousands of documents and try to piece together the last few years' activities of The Firm – the rogues gallery of London gangsters headed up by the Krays. With everybody keeping shtum the team look for any angle they can exploit, all the way down to the classic Al Capone trap of nailing the twins on their accounts and taxes, which inevitably triggers a comparison from one of the coppers to the 'Untouchables'.
Unfortunately, The Untouchables (1987) this is not. Whereas Brian De Palma's classic portrays the fuzz as charismatic defenders of justice cleaning up the streets of their city, Code Of Silence tries to stick (mostly) to realism where the Bobbies on the beat are just regular Joes who conduct their police business from empty warehouses and small rooms filled with brown boxes. By shifting the focus away from the crime and the criminals the story loses a large measure of its razzle dazzle, as well as much of its tension and scope. The entire scenario of the film barely shifts from a single location, leaving us the viewers, to imagine much of the horror and brutality and fear exhibited upon the general public of London for ourselves.
Attempts are made by director Ben Mole to widen the vision of the story at points, by introducing short fast-frame intermezzos more akin to a Guy Ritchie movie, as well as pulling his characters out of their own timeline to have them witness real time re-enactments in the past. Neither of these techniques really work though, mostly because they jar so much with the overall style and feel of the movie and its focus on run-of-the-mill police work. These little asides are appreciated however, as they break up the monotony of the basic story.
Technically, Code Of Silence comes across as very accomplished, with its camerawork, direction and sound editing all being top notch. The cast, too, all give strong performances and round out their characters into three dimensional people, with Ronan Summers being of particular note as he tackles the confusing trickery of playing both Ronnie and Reggie, each with their own little idiosyncrasies. Stephen Moyer is solid and stoic as Det. Read and acts as a strong lynchpin for the whole film to revolve around, which is just as well because he's in pretty much every frame of the movie.
Overall, Code Of Silence never really gets off the ground as a touted Kray Twins film. Its limited setting and fleeting glances of the real life crime involved serve to keep it firmly rooted in the routine and desk work of policing. While this perhaps keeps things more realistic and indicative of what actually happened, it also negates a more interesting, cinematic style of storytelling, leaving a distinct feeling of having watched an extended edition of The Bill.
As Alfred Hitchcock once said, “What is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out”; what we seem to have here is something of the opposite, 'life with all the dramatic bits cut out' and that in itself is probably the film's biggest crime.