With a surprisingly straightforward style, Jordan (Buffalo Soldiers) directs the film like a washed-out Western, and it looks fantastic! The production design is impeccable--gritty and real, soaked in blood and mud with extremely authentic characters. The cast is a bit uneven: Ledger holds things together with a subdued and often too-noble central performance, while Bloom and Edgerton are very good in more complicated and satisfying roles. Rush is in the vile villain mode we've seen before, while Watts, Griffiths and the other women have very little to do. But the real problem is the script, which never remotely captures any passion, and makes no sense of the events. We never have a clue why the Kellys go on their crime spree or why they become folk heroes, even though much of their trouble is apparently based on misunderstandings and conspiracies. There are no shadings at all; these are simple heroes and villains. The bad guys can be easily identified by the way they kill innocent animals like a horse, a parrot or a circus lion. All of this leaves a good story awash in so much politically correct revisionism that it doesn't feel remotely believable. Very promising, but a real botched job.
dir Gregor Jordan|
scr John Michael McDonagh
with Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Joel Edgerton, Geoffrey Rush, Laurence Kinlan, Phil Barantini, Naomi Watts, Rachel Griffiths, Kerry Condon, Emily Browning, Kris McQuade, Kiri Paramore
release Australia 27.Mar.03;
UK 26.Sep.03; US 26.Mar.04
The Kelly Gang Strikes Back: Barantini, Bloom and Ledger.
|"**** Shot around country Victoria and released very quickly, Jordan has made a thoroughly entertaining interpretation of the Kelly legend (based on the Robert Drewe novel). Despite the over-romanticisation of Kelly into an Australian Braveheart, the film has a lot to recommend it. Numerous well-chosen locations, beautiful bleak landscapes, plenty of local talent, a good script and direction combine to make what is bound to be a local blockbuster both here and overseas. Ledger is well cast as the Irish Larrikan Kelly and plays the part and accent well. Unfortunately the other stars--Watts, Griffiths and even the arch enemy played by Rush--get little screen time to give the film a bit more balance. Historians will also be annoyed at the failure of the film to stick more closely to the actual events--but they always complain about that! Overall it will provide a good night out for all age groups, and liven up the legend (Victoria police still fear the man that killed 20 odd of their men)." --Gawain McLachlan, Filmnet, Melbourne 14.Mar.03|