Ned Kelly

  • 2002
  • Movie
  • R
  • Crime, Historical

A dark western about the short life and bad times of "iron outlaw" Ned Kelly, Australia's answer to Jesse James. Victoria Province, 1871. The poor son of an Irish convict in English-ruled Australia, young Ned's (Heath Ledger) teenage joyride on a stray mare earns him three years in prison for horse theft. Older and angrier, Ned nevertheless returns home...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A dark western about the short life and bad times of "iron outlaw" Ned Kelly, Australia's answer to Jesse James. Victoria Province, 1871. The poor son of an Irish convict in English-ruled Australia, young Ned's (Heath Ledger) teenage joyride on a stray mare earns him three years in prison for horse theft. Older and angrier, Ned nevertheless returns home to his mother (Kris McQuade) and younger siblings Dan (Laurence Kinlan), Kate (Kerry Condon) and Grace (Emily Browning) determined to stay out of trouble. He gets a job working for English gentleman rancher Richard Cook (Nicholas Bell), but flirts incautiously with Cook's beautiful young wife, Julia (Naomi Watts), and feuds with perpetually drunken Officer Fitzpatrick (Kiri Paramore) of the Victoria Police. Fitzpatrick's lust for Ned's sister Kate starts the wheels of injustice turning: Dan gives Fitzgerald a hiding and Fitzgerald spreads the story that Ned, who wasn't even there, shot him. Ned can't use his alibi — Julia was with him but won't admit it for fear of ruining her reputation — so he and Dan decide to lay low until everything blows over. But it never does. Mrs. Kelly is arrested in their stead and the brothers, by now accompanied by longtime friends Joe Byrne (Orlando Bloom) and Steve Hart (Philip Barantini), kill three police officers sent to gun them down. With a government bounty on their heads, Kelly and company rob banks and share the loot with poor immigrant families, who embrace them as folk heroes and close ranks against the authorities. But the fugitives are eventually run to ground; pursued by a small army of policemen under the command of implacable Superintendent Hare (Geoffrey Rush), the 25-year-old Kelly and his gang, clad in homemade armor made from plowshares, stage their last stand in the isolated railway town of Glenrowan. Adapted from Robert Drewe's 1999 historical novel Our Sunshine, the film sticks fairly close to the known facts but errs consistently on the side of pro-Kelly interpretation. The wholly invented character of unattainable love interest Julia Cook (the real Kelly once referred to an enigmatic "Julia" in a letter) is the film's weakest link and smacks of a desperate attempt to shoehorn a pretty woman into a story about grubby men with tangled beards. Ironically, though Kelly is all but unknown outside Australia, his story is so in line with 100 years of pulp-Western tropes that it feels cliched, though director Gregor Jordan's nightmarish vision of the Australian landscape is vividly haunting.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A dark western about the short life and bad times of "iron outlaw" Ned Kelly, Australia's answer to Jesse James. Victoria Province, 1871. The poor son of an Irish convict in English-ruled Australia, young Ned's (Heath Ledger) teenage joyride on a stray mar… (more)

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