Cinemagoers have always had a perverse fascination with the mafioso. We delighted ourselves watching James Cagney smash a grapefruit Mae Clarke’s face, enjoyed Al Pacino building an Empire on cocaine and had a ball watching a deluded Bob Hoskins challenge the might of the IRA. Crime and cinema have always gone hand in hand; but this is different. This is where pop and history meet.
Fred Foreman (syndicate and chum to the Krays among others) was one of the leading London criminals of the sixties. Going with the motto “don’t mess with Fred, or you’ll be brown bread dead”, Foreman is the last of a generation of underworld players, understanding this is his final chance to get his story across. “It was only business” Foreman admits “my wife, she never knew nothing”. Audience members have forgiven impresarios like Alan Sugar for their ruthless lifestyles. Is a violent impresario capable of forgiveness?
Foreman, while undoubtedly guilty of some reprehensible actions, is a charming and affable interviewee. The film holds nothing back, returning to Foreman’s childhood in a blitz-ridden England, the film makes some sense as to what shaped a man who would be later accused of forty murders. His poverty-stricken background shaped the adult he became, readily admitting one of the worst things anyone can do is bring a family up in poverty.
Paul van Carter brings Foreman into a modern London, showing how the past can change the future. A case in point comes when Foreman makes a visit least to the set of the Tom Hardy starred ‘Legend’. He still maintains celebrity status, but there is an underlying sense that after all these years spent incarcerated have paid their toll on this man. Aged 85, the film shows a person, once feared for violent prowess throughout England’s capital, now ageing in his own rocking chair.
It’s a fascinating look at a period which has been pinpointed and paid homage to in the works of Monty Python, The Inbetweeners and Blur. While the East End may have been a time of glamour, with the slick suits booted and tooting admirers, this is the aftermath of such a lifestyle. Foreman is left with a conscience to live with, a death awaiting and one last chance to get his story told on film. It might not be the most pleasant of stories, but it’s a necessary one, none the less.
Fred is available for digital download on Monday, May 28th, and it’s out on DVD June 5th.