True History of the Kelly Gang - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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True History of the Kelly Gang

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :halfstar:
Final Score: :3.5stars:


Ned Kelly has been immortalized in multiple different film adaptations, ranging from the 1970 film with Mick Jagger in it, to the 2003 Heath Ledger/Orlando Bloom adaptation, but none is so bizarre and off the wall as as 2019’s True History of the Kelly Gang (which states in it’s opening that pretty much nothing in the film is true as a little wink and nod). The film’s punk rock score and gritty visuals, mixed with horroresque visual effects makes for a ridiculously harsh and raw look, and one that that feels almost foreign from the Aussie Western takes on the classic outlaw.

The True History of the Kelly Gang was adapted from a 2001 novel by Peter Carey, and given a sort of primal feel that seethes and rages in the storm of it’s main character. Young Ned Kelly (Orlando Schwerdt) is raised in the harshness of 1860’s Australia, having been raised by a ner do well father and a mother who sold him into indentured servitude to a thief named Harry (Russell Crowe). Coming home after escaping from his captor, Ned finds his family home nothing like what he left it. His mother is wedding a man half her age from California, and his brother and sister have grown up into small town thieves. After crossing path with a cruel “copper” (played by Nicholas Hoult) and having his life turned upside down, Ned Kelley (now played by George McKay) is forced to go on the lam, swearing vengeance and death to the man who tore what little life he had apart.

As I said above, The True History of the Kelly Gang isn’t meant to be taken as 100% fact. The opening scrawls clues us into that fact right off the bat, and the movie takes on a Point of View vibe, with the vast majority of the narration (done by George McKay) being Ned Kelly writing down his thoughts in a diary for his young son to read. The purpose of the first hour seems vague and a bit strange, but the movie focuses down to business at about the hour and twenty minute mark, as Ned and his siblings are forced into becoming wanted men (and women) for the crime of being pushed too far by his oppressors.

The fevered punk rock tone gives the film a harsh element, blended with the sadistically brutal treatment of his family by the “coppers”. Even though you definitely hate the military style police in the Aussie film, you’re also left with the sensation that Ned is just as guilty as they are. His savage nature is honed and fine tuned during his formative years, and even though he WANTS to be a more gentle person, his inner demons rise to the surface and fuel his descent into darkness, in what can only be seen as a demented hell-like final battle between the law and the Ned Kelly Gang.

George McKay is simply riveting here, allowing Ned to be as raw and savage as can be humanely possible. He’s a bizarre, almost horror like, man who is as focused and powerful as they come. A few “bigger” names pop up throughout the movie, with Charlie Hunnam playing a deliciously vile Sgt who disrupts much of Ned’s younger life, and Russell Crow, who is criminally under shown in the film. He alone adds some depth and power to Ned’s creation, and while McKay is fantastic, it’s really hard to beat Russell Crowe’s years of experience.


Rated R for strong violence throughout, bloody images, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity

Video: :4stars:
I couldn’t find any actual information about the filming, but I would guess that the flick is actually shot on 35mm film. If not, they’ve done a wonderful job at creating a very filmic environment. Kurzel starts the film out at 1.85:1 framing and as the film progresses, slowly creeps the framing down to 2.35:1, which allows for tighter focus and more of a sweeping feel. The movie is harsh and unrelenting with it’s use of browns, dusty tones, and bleak colors to give it a raw feel to the outback. Splashes of blood are shocking against the drab over tones, and the film shifts from gritty and grainy, to bright and resplendent in detail depending on the scene. Everything is done amazingly well in terms of encoding, and Shout Factory’s normal banding and artifacting isn’t present at all. I won’t say the disc is perfect, but the raw look that Kurzel was going for is faithfully replicated on the disc.

Audio: :5stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is nothing short of stunning, as it brings an entirely enveloping and visceral mix to the table. The opening bits of the movie are a bit subdued with the dialog being the main focus, and outside of the dialect sometimes being hard for my American ear to pickup, it is perfectly balanced. However, the film has some intense action sequences that really lift the doors off their hinges (proverbially speaking) with loud gunshots, deep thudding slams of the score, and even some jump scares with the scene changes. LFE is visceral and jaw dropping, and while it doesn’t impregnate every sequence, when it does come in, it comes in with a BANG. Surrounds are active throughout the movie, bringing in the chirping of desert bugs as ambient noise, as well as the rough and tumble punk rock score. Easily the single best part of this entire package.

Extras: :halfstar:
• Theatrical Trailer

Final Score: :3.5stars:

The last half of the film is the most “exciting” but also the one section where the movie semi falls apart. It’s more feverish, filled with Ned’s dream of a metal warship, as well as a hellish battle against the law officers that have driven him mad. The first half is a bit more dull and flat seemingly, but is the more interesting part of the movie. I won’t say that the movie falls apart, but it DOES suffer a bit in the second half. The feverish tone having pushed into almost arthouse territory and the violence escalating to absurd proportions. All in all, it’s a strange movie and definitely different than any other film I’ve ever seen about the Aussie outlaw. It’s fun, strange, slightly moving, and rather scattered as well. Definitely something I’d rent before owning personally.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: George McKay, Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult, Russell Crowe, Charlie Hunnam
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Written by: Shaun Grant (Screenplay), Peter Carey (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC / 2.35:1 AVC)
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH,, Spanish
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 125 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: September 8th, 2020

Recommendation: Bizarrely Entertaining Watch



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Jul 13, 2017
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Thanks for the review. Very interesting story here.. I will see it once it is available on amazon prime/netflix. :)
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