Ned Kelly

Movie Review by Reece De Ville

Starring: Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Naomi Watts, Laurence Kinlan

Director: Gregor Jordan

Remember Yahoo Serious? No? Surely you remember YOUNG EINSTEIN? No?? Well how about RECKLESS KELLY? Oh god, you remember that now don’t you….

The tale of Ned Kelly and his family of outlaws has never had a decent translation to the screen. Take Mr Serious’s early 90’s attempt at updating the Outback hero by transferring him to sunnier climes – L.A. Yep, that film stank so much you could smell it coming amidst a gaggle of skunks. Even dear old Sir Mick of Jagger had a go in 1970 which pretty much summed up once and for all why he shouldn’t give up his day job.

Into this mire comes the new film from BUFFALO SOLDIERS director Gregor Jordan. NED KELLY throws up Heath ‘I’ll look stern now. Yes. That’s it’ Ledger as the eponymous hero of the outback. With a cast including Naomi Watts, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush, you could be forgiven for thinking Jordan was on to a winner here. However, the film’s short running time only serves to introduce us to certain events and characters in Kelly’s life, passing through them as you might idly flick through the pages of the National Enquirer. The script is serviceable at best and only touches on the heart and soul of Kelly along with the hardship his family, as immigrants, had to endure.

Jordan directs as if his hands have been set in concrete, offering up a tale that can’t decide whether it’s trying to tell an accurate history of the Kelly gang, or if offering us a supporting cast of stereotyped policemen and townsfolk will do instead. The early promise and energy of BUFFALO SOLDIERS seems to have been strangled as if the weight of a major studio picture had been weighing Jordan down. Unfortunately, the main problem here lies with the casting. You have to worry about a film where not even Geoffrey Rush is allowed to make an impression, and where the actors playing the Kelly gang – apart from the already established Bloom – are forgotten as soon as the house lights come back up (if there was ever a film crying out for decent characterisation to provoke audience empathy, it was this one). But the biggest disappointment of all has to be Ledger. To say Ledger is sleepwalking though this role is to do a disservice to zombies everywhere – an occasional gurn or emotive yelp do not a dynamic character make (see Kevin Costner). Effectively, this renders the character of Ned Kelly as a decent, yet thoroughly dull and unwatchable character.

On the plus side, the pivotal moment where the gang appear in their homemade armour is shot and handled quite well.

Oh, and it’s short.

Now, where’s Mick and Yahoo….?

2 out of 6 stars