Krays Code of Silence Film Review

Code of Silence (2021), directed by Ben Mole | FEATURE FILM REVIEW

Stephen Moyer stars as Detective Read in Code of Silence (2021), a perplexingly dull crime caper about the unseen police work spent to capture the notorious Kray twins.

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Capital PUNishment

I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to come up with a joke about how many films and documentaries there seem to have been made about the Kray twins over the last few decades. It’s just Krays-zy. It’s a whole new Krays and everybody is hopping on board. You get the drift. 

There’s a lot of wordplay that can happen with the title or the characters. None of it is original. Not that it matters that much. It’s just an introduction to talk about a sub-standard crime caper. 

When it comes to one of the latest renditions towards telling the story of the crime-inclined twins named, you guessed it, the Krays, Code of Silence is not the most effective film. Almost immediately, it trips on itself to balance the true story aspects of its narrative with embellishing sequences to be far more cinematic. It contains moments where one can see why Code of Silence exists as a film, but, unfortunately, the rest of the film is a slog to work through and struggles to find its own identity.

A Mole in the system

When it comes to “based on true events” films, there is always a fine line to walk between the cinematic and keeping a film believable enough that its audience doesn’t check out from that belief. 

Director Ben Mole has a tedious task with Code of Silence. With a substantial resume filled with documentaries, TV work, and more traditional films, he might seem like the perfect candidate to helm this film on paper. 

In reality, Code of Silence is a film pulled in all of those directions in its tone and feeling. One part documentary. One part feature-length narrative cinema. One-part TV pilot. None of it quite coalesces in an effective manner. Mole has a lot of unique talents as a director (more on that in a second) but when it comes to making a smooth cinematic experience, Code of Silence stumbles. 

A slice of crime

The most egregiously baffling part of the film is the choice of its story. The film tells the story of police superintendent Nipper Read, played with an odd quirkiness by Stephen Moyer – an actor mostly known in the US for his work on True Blood (2008), who attempts to take down the Krays two years after a failed attempt to prosecute them. 

It’s told mostly through a series of interviews with witnesses or cohorts of the gangsters in a warehouse and seemingly lacks an entire third act. It’s as if Code of Silence was simply the second slice of a three-part made-for-TV limited series.

While that choice is certainly intriguing, the manner that Code of Silence has to spend its time setting up the story and then capping it off with words plastered on the screen feels unfinished and choppy. It takes one aspect of the story, spending large portions of its run time catching up or recapping events not shown in the film, and hoping its audience liked what was on screen enough to research the rest. 

Ronan Summers Ronnie and Reggie Kray
Ronan Summers as Ronnie and Reggie Kray, Code of Silence. 101 Films.

Don’t always believe your eyes

Despite a horribly unenergetic start to the film which takes place in a records room that is meant to be slightly mysterious but only comes across as perplexingly bland and uninteresting, Code of Silence is decent enough in its execution. It ranges from mid-tier network TV drama to stylishly fun, but the overall approach isn’t as baffling as its script and structure. 

Code of Silence looks low budget, thanks to its strange use of one empty warehouse for most of its run time and only a handful of characters, but there are moments of style that Mole uses wisely. However, the budgetary constraints certainly lend the film to feel like it’s made for TV and not nearly as cinematic or thrilling as its trailer or poster would indicate. 

Style before substance

These moments of style stand out like a beacon of light in a dimly lit dusk. Every time a character starts to recount a story or the police officers offer a theory, the film pulls a stylish maneuver of having Moyer’s Nipper appear in the “memory” and either speak with the characters or deliver questions in the form of a commentary. At one point, he even steps up to a clock and pushes it ahead in time while the characters behind him move in fast forward. 

It’s a rather fun way to go about this portion of the narrative, dragging the audience mercifully from the drab warehouse setting, and adding a lot of life to the proceedings. It’s not used nearly enough, particularly in the latter half of the film, but when it does pop up it is a pleasant surprise. 

Stephen Moyer Alec Newman
Stephen Moyer, Alec Newman in Code of Silence. 101 Films.

Performers do a performance

If anything, the one element that a viewer may enjoy in the film is the performances. While Moyer is doing his best to play the stoic lead with as much pizzazz as the role will allow for, so many of the secondary roles do stand out in the film. 

In particular, Ronan Summers is a true highlight of the film as the Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie, easily stealing every scene he’s in as either character with swagger. Although the Krays play a massive role in the film, they have intentionally limited screen time which acts as a detriment to the rest of the sequences. If only they had been in more of the film. You know, a film about their eventual capture.

Turn of Krays

There are plenty of crime capers released every year, with so many of them being laundered into the straight-to-home video market. Code of Silence will be another one to shuffle a few copies online, but it is ultimately a film that will be forgotten in six months. 

There are key moments where its audience may snag onto its ideas – through the stylish flashbacks or the performances of its second-tier characters, but the film is mostly a rudimentary and glacially paced chore to sit through, lacking a cohesive structure or interesting throughline with its script to carry it beyond a mid-tier lazy Sunday watch. 

If anything, there are plenty of other Kray-focused films to consume that work better than Code of Silence. Not that any of those are all that great either, but at least some of those might be a bit more memorable than this one. 

4 out of 5 stars


Editor & Artwork: Richard Williams
Images courtesy of 101 Films

Reviewer / Presenter

Writer, podcaster, cinema fiend, drive-in mutant, kung fu fanatic, horror hound, vulgar auteur, and sometimes human being. I’ve been writing about cinema for over ten years now, dedicating my time to all genre cinema. Co-creator of Blood Brother Film Reviews and co-host of the No Franchise Fatigue podcast.

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