True History of the Kelly Gang: Film Review

The True History of the Kelly Gang

True History of the Kelly Gang has been reviewed pretty well so I’m sorry to add my negative reaction into the mix. I just wasn’t a fan at all.

It is based on Peter Carey’s novel of the same name, which, despite the title, is a work of fiction. In fact, we are warned at the beginning that nothing we’ll see is true, even though the broad strokes of the story are generally based on facts. Anyhow, this follows the famous Australian bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly (Orlando Schwerdt) from when he is a young boy, being sold off to Harry Power (Russell Crowe) to him becoming a murderer (now as George MacKay) and his eventual demise.

The movie has a runtime of two hours and yet it feels rushed like Justin Kurzel tried to fit in too many moments in Kelly’s life. For example, his encounters with Power are far too brief and move too quickly and then Power’s gone. It is a sparse, impressionistic take that shows us fleeting glimpses of his life which don’t make a satisfactory whole. It is uneven and I never really felt like I knew the guy.

The strength lies with the star-studded cast, with the standout being MacKay, who looks like a punk rocker with a mullet and a tight sinewy body that he’s frequently showing off. Usually, MacKay plays the everyman, the hero or the good guy so it was refreshing to see him shed that image and play someone so dark. His Australian accent wasn’t too bad either. I also enjoyed Nicholas Hoult as Kelly’s nemesis, Constable Fitzpatrick – he was brilliant and darkly funny – and Crowe in a fleeting role as Power. I must also mention Charlie Hunnam as Sergeant O’Neill, another Brit, Essie Davis as Kelly’s mum (I hated her character though), and Thomasin McKenzie as Kelly’s girlfriend Mary.

The cast is great but the material didn’t float my boat at all. It was bleak, gritty and loud and it felt way too long.

In selected cinemas now 

Rating: 2/5 

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