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:: Ned Kelly

The story of Ned Kelly has been immortalised several times (four on film and once on television) and regardless of the hype surrounding the fact or fiction in retelling Kelly’s life yet again, director Gregor Jordan and writer John Michael McDonagh have accomplished a worthy adaptation of Robert Drewe’s book “Our Sunshine.”

We meet our protagonist when he is imprisoned for stealing a horse in a place whose authority (the coppers) discriminate against the early immigrant settlers of the town. Upon his release several years later, a couple of confrontations with the local coppers lead the finger being pointed in Kelly’s direction the next time anything else spells trouble, and the next time is a big one. Unable to get to Kelly, the local authorities imprison his mother leaving his family in a shambles and Kelly with his “gang” on the run. After killing one of his enemies in an accidental shoot out, Kelly and his gang realise that they have gone past the point of no return and must venture on against the side of the law. The assembled team comprises of Kelly, friends Joe Byrne (Orlando Bloom), Steve Hart (Philip Barantini) and brother Dan Kelly (Laurence Kinlan), who all agree they are in it for the long haul.

As the heat on them rises in their home town, they must flee and make their own way moving from town to town holding up banks and wooing local women, gaining popularity wherever they go regardless of the large cash reward placed on their heads. Cleverly working together to invent a new form of bulletproof armour, their final grand showdown at Glenrowan sees their ultimate demise.

Beautifully shot by cinematographer Oliver Stapleton (The Grifters, The Cider House Rules) captures the raw and darkness of the land, especially in the brilliantly shot scene when Kelly looks hungrily at his horse after days on end without food and slits his throat with the gang kneeling over the horse drinking of its blood as it if they were the animals and the horse their prey.

Heath Ledger as Kelly managed a difficult role quite successfully as did all the actors in his gang, especially two Irish newcomers Barantini and Kinlan. Great supporting cast of Geoffrey Rush as Superintendent Hare and Orlando Bloom as Kelly’s right hand man. Rachel Griffiths in her role as Mrs Scott displays a good comedic range and Naomi Watts as Kelly’s love interest is also good, however her role is fairly insignificant.

The story seems to work well as an entertaining retelling of Kelly’s life with moments sure to please most audiences. The comedic moments were surprising funny and the shoot-out in Glenrowan was visually stunning to watch the bullets flying off the armour in the pouring rain. The ending tied in beautifully with the beginning of the film as Kelly explains how as a child he saved a life once and was awarded a bravery sash.

Perhaps this film is part of the new breed of faction films that have been slowly creeping into our cinema screen (and currently, television and newspapers) that had been causing so much debate and fury. One of the main points of contention about Gregor Jordan’s Ned Kelly is how much fact is in this fiction, or is it just fictionalised fact? Whatever. Producer Nelson Woss possibly explains it best, “We did not set out to make a bio-pic or a documentary. What we wanted was to reveal the underlying themes of the New Kelly story in an entertaining way.” Agreed, enough said.