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The True History of the Kelly Gang

This very interesting Western out of Australia is an interpretation of the life of Ned Kelly, a real person of Irish descent who lived in Australia in the late 19th century. He was notorious for fighting against the English police and their injustice against the Irish immigrants. I have not seen other versions of this story nor read the book on which it was based. However, the film itself is unusual in its approach. In the film, Ned’s father wore frocks (women’s dresses) while engaging in raids on the English in order to catch them off guard. Ned, his brother, and two friends took up the tradition when their mother was jailed. The movie is at times funny, at other times incredibly intense. You can see a bit of influence from Apocalypse Now. Just watching Ned (played by George McKay, most recognizable from 1917) transforms into a frock-wearing marauder is worth the rental fee. I think the best character is his mother Ellen, played by Essie Davis (Babadouk). She is amazing. Davis’ character and performance reminded me a bit of Jackie Weaver’s character in the great film Animal Kingdom (2010) – for me, Davis stole the show; she is despicable in some ways (at one point she sells Ned for 15 pounds), yet you have compassion for her and her family. It is also an interesting examination of masculinity, friendship, and desire – the way Ned and his mother look at each other is purely Freudian, and Ned and his best mate regularly cuddle with each other. The score and filming are also interesting. The movie has a punk feel to it that is realized in the song played in the ending credits. I don’t think the film is perfect, and I doubt that it is one for everybody, but I enjoyed this director’s contribution to the Western genre (2020; 4 Stars).

About Gary Burkholder

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