Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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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.
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
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.
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
Runtime: 125 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: September 8th, 2020
Recommendation: Bizarrely Entertaining Watch