Australasian Cinema > films >
True History of the Kelly Gang (Justin Kurzel, 2019) wr. Shaun Grant from Peter Carey novel, prod. Liz Watts, Porchlight, Daybreak Pictures; George MacKay, Essie Davis, Sean Keenan, Earl Cave, Louis Hewison, Russell Crowe; Venice
Based on Peter Carey's novel. The story of Australian bush-ranger Ned Kelly and his gang as they flee from authorities during the 1870s.
When George MacKay takes centre stage as the grown-up Ned, the character becomes a compendium of class and colonial discontent, whose cross-dressing and suggested bisexuality seem inspired by anti-establishment gesture politics as much as deep internal need. MacKay’s wide-eyed stare and sinewy physique make an impression, yet he gives little sense of being in command of the character’s seething, complex psychology.
The petering-out second half is a bit of a shame, even if the baroque visuals show what Kurzel has taken from his forays into Shakespearean spectacle (Macbeth) and manga styling (Assassin’s Creed). An opening drone camera glide over a barren landscape and a climactic nocturnal shootout couched as an elemental play of shadow and light are just two examples of his chafing at the bonds of traditional historical pictorialism – throughout, one senses the sheer effort that’s gone into creating a highly distinctive cinematic artefact. Sight&Sound.
The final image, with Kelly in voiceover presenting himself as both a hero and a victim one last time, again challenges our sympathy for a man who both suffered immensely and was a ruthless criminal. Ambiguous to the end, True History of the Kelly Gang leaves us to ponder on the story Kelly might have told his son (in reality, he never had one) and comrades, but also on the one he may have told himself, the power it had over his life, and its necessary falsehoods. Sight&Sound.
... Mackay’s unconvincing in the crucial role, and the whole thing doesn’t feel like it adds to much as the promise to examine a legend through the world around him doesn’t pay off. ... Clearly, there are a lot of talented people involved in “True History,” and it fits snugly into director Justin Kurzel’s career examinations of violent masculinity in films like “Snowtown” and “Macbeth,” but it’s ultimately a shallow endeavor. Part of the problem is that the first half is notably stronger than the second, as MacKay can’t handle the character’s descent into near-madness ... RogerEbert.
Groves, Don 2019, 'Limited opportunities to catch True History of the Kelly Gang in cinemas', if.com.au.
Garry Gillard | New: 6 December, 2019 | Now: 8 August, 2020