Review of Ned Kelly


Movie Review: "Ned Kelly"

-- Rating: R (violence and brief nudity)
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: March 26, 2004
Directed by: Gregor Jordan
Genre: Action, Adventure, and Biography

"Ned Kelly" is based on the true life story of Ned Kelly, an Irish-Australian who was considered an outlaw in the 1870s. The story has since become part of Australian legend, with many people convinced that Ned Kelly is a hero due to his actions.

Director Gregor Jordan chose to base the script of "Ned Kelly" on Robert Drewe's book Our Sunshine. Ned Kelly's story has been told through film many times before, most notably the first feature film ever to be made, "The Story of the Kelly Gang" (1906). Due to the Australian undertones in this latest film version of Ned Kelly's life, many Hollywood-based Australian actors appear in the movie. The plot is relatively unknown to American audiences, so using familiar Australian actors, such as the late Heath Ledger (who plays the role of Ned Kelly), Naomi Watts, and Geoffrey Rush, helps the film to appeal to a wider audience.

The use of so many Australian actors also gives a genuine feel about the film in terms of accents and knowledge of the local area. In addition to these actors, Orlando Bloom takes on the role of one of Ned Kelly's sidekicks. Rush plays the part of Superintendent Francis Hare, who was sent by the government to arrest many of Kelly's accomplices.

Watts plays Kelly's love interest on screen, although the two of them never really have a chance to connect in the film. This couldn't be further from the truth in real life because Watts and Ledger entered into a romantic relationship after filming "Ned Kelly," and even lived together for a short time. For Ledger, "Ned Kelly" gave him the chance to return to Australia after living in the United States since his teen years.

The film opens with a scene showing Kelly as a compassionate young boy rescuing a friend from drowning. After this, Kelly awakes to find a stray horse close by, so he rides it into the local town. On arrival, he is arrested and thrown into prison for stealing the horse. These opening moments of the film set the scene for the continuous confrontation between Kelly and the authorities that occurred throughout much of the next decade.

Once Kelly is freed from prison, a disagreement ensues over some horses and a policeman alleges that Kelly shot him. A horde of police turn up to arrest Kelly, but he and his friends have already escaped into the Australian outback. After killing a couple of police officers in a shootout, Kelly and his friends become known as the Kelly Gang.

The gang's location is revealed to police, so the group captures the small town of Glenrowan and take seventy people hostage. One morning before sunrise, police storm the inn where the gang are hiding, killing three of the friends and badly wounding Kelly. He is captured and sentenced to death for the murder of two police officers. Despite tens of thousands of signatures asking for mercy to be shown to Kelly, he is hanged not long after at a suburban Melbourne jail.

"Ned Kelly" provides a description of a real life event that provokes a response from the viewer. The definitions of a hero and an outlaw are constantly questioned throughout the film. Ledger was widely praised by movie critics for his performance, with many saying that he brought out the true character of Kelly. To many Australians of that time, Kelly was a type of Robin Hood figure who stood up for the rights of defenseless poor people. The film was a box office hit in Australia but struggled in other markets, perhaps due to a lack of knowledge of the history behind the character. "Ned Kelly" touches on a subject that is still divisive in Australia today, but the film attempts to provide an accurate account of events that transpired more than 130 years ago.

Rating: 3 out of 5