True History of the Kelly Gang (film)
|True History of the Kelly Gang|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Justin Kurzel|
|Screenplay by||Shaun Grant|
|Based on||True History of the Kelly Gang|
by Peter Carey
|Music by||Jed Kurzel|
|Edited by||Nick Fenton|
|124 minutes |
|Box office||$446,177 (theatrical), and $457,627 (home market)|
True History of the Kelly Gang is a 2019 bushranger film directed by Justin Kurzel, written by Shaun Grant, and based upon the 2000 novel of the same name by Peter Carey. A fictionalised account of the life of bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly, the film stars George MacKay, Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam and Russell Crowe.
It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 11 September 2019. It was released in Australia on Australia Day 2020, by Transmission Films and Stan, in the United Kingdom on 28 February 2020, by Picturehouse Entertainment, and in the United States on 24 April 2020, by IFC Films.
The film received criticism that the lead actor (MacKay) had been miscast, since he appeared too boyish and lanky to be believable as the tough and masculine Ned Kelly.
Based on Peter Carey's novel, the film is a highly-fictionalised account of the life of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang as they flee from authorities during the 1870s.
Ned Kelly's father, John "Red" Kelly (Gentle Ben Corbett), an Irishman transported to a prison colony in Van Diemen's Land, settles eventually in the colony of Victoria, Australia. After marrying Ned's mother Ellen (Essie Davis), the Kellys settle in a rural area northeast of Melbourne. Red Kelly has numerous brushes with the colonial police forces, resulting in his imprisonment and death when his son Ned (Orlando Schwerdt) is twelve years old. Ned is a courageous and compassionate boy, in one instance jumping into a river to save another boy from drowning. Ned is shocked when he finds evidence that his father has been cross-dressing.
Ned's mother attempts to provide for her children by running a shebeen, providing sexual favors to Sergeant O'Neill (Charlie Hunnam), and taking on a series of lovers, including the notorious bushranger Harry Power (Russell Crowe). Power pays Ned's mother for him to take on young Ned as an apprentice. Power provides Ned with knowledge of the land, hideouts, and strategies for bushranging. After Ned refuses to kill Sergeant O'Neill, despite Power ordering him to do so, Ned leaves Power and returns to his family's settlement, infuriated when he discovers that his mother essentially "sold" him to Power. Ned attempts to live honestly, but is arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for receiving a stolen horse. After his eventual release, Ned (now played by George MacKay) returns to his mother's house as a young man in his late teens.
During a visit to a brothel to return dresses stolen by his younger brother Dan (Earl Cave) and Dan's friend, Ned meets a prostitute who is a young Irish girl named Mary (Thomasin McKenzie), falls in love with her and begins his first sexual relationship. Ned eventually becomes an outlaw after a visit from a local police officer, Constable Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult), to the Kelly family. The policeman woos Ned's younger sister Kate, prompting Ned to reveal that Fitzpatrick has multiple mistresses in other towns and has no intention of marrying Kate. After his mother Ellen threatens the constable with violence, Fitzpatrick pulls his revolver on the family and Ned shoots him in the hand in self-defense. Warrants for the arrest of Ned and his younger brother Dan are issued.
Ned and Dan hide out in the hills of northeast Victoria, joined by their friends Steve Hart (Louis Hewison) and Ned's close mate Joe Byrne (Sean Keenan). They later become known as the Kelly Gang. Kelly's mother is arrested along with her baby daughter and imprisoned in Melbourne as enticement for Ned to give himself up. Ned finds and kills Constable Fitzpatrick. Four policemen are sent to kill the Gang after efforts to arrest them prove unsuccessful. The Gang ambushes them at Stringybark Creek, where Ned kills three of the policemen in self-defense.
In time, the Gang is discovered to be in the town of Glenrowan where they took numerous hostages and constructed several suits of plate-steel armour for protection. One of the hostages is the crippled local schoolmaster (Jacob Collins-Levy), who encourages Ned to relate the story of his life after seeing samples of Ned's writing. The schoolmaster betrays the Gang by warning the incoming police train that the young men sabotaged the tracks. The policemen surround the inn where the Gang is hiding and in a series of striking, hallucinogenic scenes, engage in a furious shootout, seriously wounding the armour-clad Ned and killing the other three members of the Gang. The twenty-five year old Ned is convicted of murdering one of the policemen at Stringybark Creek, and is hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol after his mother sees him a final time and urges him to "die like a Kelly."
There are some significant departures from Carey's novel. In the film, the entire Gang cross-dresses to confuse the police, while in the novel only Dan and Steve, the two youngest members of the Gang, wear dresses. The film projects an emphatic Oedipal relationship between Ned and his mother. It also hints at sexual contact between Ned and his mate Joe Byrne, although the physical affection between the two young men could also be interpreted simply as a manifestation of adolescent male friendship.
The actor George MacKay, who appears as a clean-shaven, very slim, blond, adult Ned Kelly, does not physically resemble the historical Kelly who was burly, bearded, and dark-haired. The film also unaccountably has MacKay frequently shirtless, something not described in the novel.
- George MacKay as Ned Kelly
- Orlando Schwerdt as young Ned Kelly
- Russell Crowe as Harry Power
- Nicholas Hoult as Constable Fitzpatrick
- Essie Davis as Ellen Kelly
- Sean Keenan as Joe Byrne
- Jacob Collins-Levy as Thomas Curnow
- Thomasin McKenzie as Mary
- Charlie Hunnam as Sergeant O'Neill
- Claudia Karvan as Ms. Shelton
- Marlon Williams as George King
- Gentle Ben Corbett as Red Kelly
- Earl Cave as Dan Kelly
- Louis Hewison as Steve Hart
In November 2017, the project was officially announced, with George MacKay cast as Ned Kelly, and Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult and Essie Davis making up the supporting cast. Filming was announced as beginning in March 2018 in Victoria, Australia. By April, the film's production start was shifted to July. Production started on 22 July. It was revealed in September that Charlie Hunnam was cast in the film.
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 11 September 2019, and was released in Australian cinemas in 2020 by Transmission Films. Australian streaming rights were acquired by Stan, which released the film on their service as a Stan original. The film was given a limited release in Australian cinemas 9 January 2020 with planned wide release on Stan on Australia Day, 26 January 2020.
On Rotten Tomatoes, True History of the Kelly Gang holds an approval rating of 79% based on 145 reviews, with an average rating of 6.89/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Its unusual approach won't be for all viewers, but True History of the Kelly Gang takes a distinctively postmodern look at Australia's past." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
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- The Fleming Agency [@flemingagent] (22 July 2018). "Shooting starts today on True History of the Kelly Gang, screenplay by award winning writer, TFA's Shaun Grant starring George MacKay, Russell Crowe, Essie Davis & Nicholas Hoult #featurefilm #truehistoryofthekellygang #australiansinfilm #screenplay #writer" (Tweet). Retrieved 24 August 2018 – via Twitter.
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- "Lowest Grossing No 1. Movies on the Domestic Box Office Chart". The Numbers.
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