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Home > Written Reviews, Written Reviews > “TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG” Violent and Daunting

“TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG” Violent and Daunting

 

 

 

Review by John Delia

Vicious, cruel and daunting the film True History of the Kelly Gang follows a boy to man as he fights to survive a childhood and win over the respect for rights of the commoner. Not your everyday adventure, the movie gets into your head as young Ned Kelly deals with his family’s poverty, then switches gears for a fast take on Kelly’s determination to fight the government’s militia in order to avoid arrest. Well written, filmed and directed the movie character reminds me somewhat of a Jesse James.

George Mackay as “Ned Kelly” in Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

Deep in the backwoods of the badlands of 1860’s Australia, Ellen Kelly (Essie Davis) ekes out life in a metal and word framed house and barn. Her children Ned, Red and Kate do most of the chores at her behest. Frequented by men she earns cash for sex a trade she learned from the local brothel. Ned’s (Orlando Schwerdt) ambitious and wants his mother to love him so he gets meat for the table, stealing it from a neighbor’s farm.

It’s a rough life for all on the farm but after some years pass, Ned gets sold to a highwayman Harry Power (Russell Crowe) where he learns how to shoot and assist in holdups. It’s the beginning of a sordid life that leads him back to the homestead where he finds things have sunk to a new low.

Russell Crowe as “Harry Power” and Orlando Schwerdt as “Young Ned Kelly” in Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

The film gets very violent as Ned (George MacKay) tries to come to grips with his mother’s horse dealings, new husband and the continuous lawlessness. When he gets forced to commit a heinous crime, Ned’s life takes a turn for the worse against the militia. Director Justin Kurzel uses a script by novelist Peter Carey to depict the life of the rebel and anarchist. Excellent locations show the dank and cold of the farm, the brothel, saloon, rooming house, opulent ballroom, wooded lair, and stronghold. The soundtrack keeps the film lively and then somber as the movie’s story progresses.

I like the characters Kurzel depicts and the choices of actors that collectively bring the film to life. But, the top kudos go to Orlando Schwerdt and George MacKay who split the life of Ned Kelly. Both give excellent performances that pull you into the film and turn you upside down. Its Schwerdt’s first film and he nails the young coming of age boy who fights for his family and himself as the main provider. He loves his mother in spite of her whoring, but when he gets sold off by her, he can’t come to grips with the loss of her love for him.

Charlie Hunnam as “Sergeant O’Neil” in Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

George MacKay takes over as the older Ned Kelly. Ned finally makes something of himself, even getting married. When he finds himself in a fight with Constable Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult), he goes on the run looking to from his own gang. George MacKay has had some big hits including the recent 1917 in which he plays Lance Corporal Schofield. His character in that film has the task of fighting his way through a WW I no man’s land to save a battalion of British Military from certain death.

Playing Ellen Kelly, Essie Davis depicts a strong willed fighter who’s only desire is to keep her family together and alive in a wilderness. She takes a lot of brutality and dishes some out herself. Well known for her “favors” for food or money, she has to fend off those who actually can do her more harm. I like her character here and it’s the glue that holds the two part story together.

True History of the Kelly Gang has been rated R by the MPAA for strong violence throughout, bloody images, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity. Not for the easily queasy or immature, the very harsh film has relentless violence.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good film for raw violence and action fans. (4 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: George MacKay, Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, Essie Davis, Charlie Hunnam, Thomasin Mckenzie
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
From a Novel by: Peter Carey
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
MPAA Rating:  R for strong violence throughout, bloody images, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity
Running Time: 2 hrs. 4 min.
Opening Date: April 24, 2020
Distributed by: IFC Films
Released in: VOD

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