DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

True History Of The Kelly Gang

Director - Justin Kurzel - 2020

"Dirty gem"
George McKay shines as the feral Australian outlaw in this divisive and dirty fact-bending nightmare - on VoD on Monday, June 22nd.

In his fourth feature, director Justin Kurzel has plunged Antipodean folklore into a hellscape reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch, creating a harsh, barren experience that is surreal yet acutely human.

Anyone expecting a history lesson will be disappointed by the opening announcement “nothing you are about to see is true”. After all, Ned Kelly is to Australia what Rasputin is to Russia – a figure of mythical proportions. Adapting Peter Carey’s 2001 novel, screenwriter Shaun Grant uses this line to fix a postmodern filter on all that follows, commenting on the distortions and controversies of Kelly’s legacy.

We are introduced to Ned Kelly as a boy (Orlando Schwerdt) living in a charred wasteland with his cruelly dysfunctional family, led by venomous matriarch Ellen Kelly (Essie Davis). They are at the mercy of local authority figures in this quasi-lawless land, the latest being Sergeant O’Neill (Charlie Hunnam), a smug cavalryman who uses Ellen for sex.

However, he is soon replaced by Harry Power (Russell Crowe), a gruff, charismatic bushranger with a dubious appetite for violence. Building upon the anger and poison of the family dynamic, Power takes Kelly under his wing, imbuing him with a foul-mouthed contempt for authority – British authority – and familiarising him with weapons, torture and murder.

The depiction of Kelly’s formative years breathes humanity into that steely mugshot known by many an Australian. Young and ingenuous, we see him beguiled by his own mother that to be a man is to main and kill. He is shown to be a victim moulded not so much by the imperial bogeyman of legend but his own family. Whether this vulnerability is accurate is almost incidental because it’s a convincing, compelling yarn.

But make no mistake, there is some real British nastiness here. As Constable Fitzpatrick, Nicholas Hoult thrives in the role of pompous imperial bastard, giving an almost Alan Rickman level of villainy. In this respect, Kurzel very much feeds into the Kelly myth and it’s some of the best stuff in the film.

But all of that patrician arrogance cannot restrain George McKay’s snarling, physical turn as Kelly. As lean and vicious as a wild dog, Kelly leads his troupe of cross-dressing anarchists into frenzied oblivion. Yet despite all his grit and fury, there is that wounded humanity to this character.

Kurzel’s film, then, is a curious biopic; it at once subverts and supports the legend of its source material with a post-modern veneer of ambiguity and harsh, sensory aesthetics. It’s divisive but dirty.

True History Of The Kelly Gang is in cinemas on Friday, February 28th. On VoD on Monday, June 22nd.



"Dirty gem"

By Jack Hawkins - 26-02-2020

By Jack Hawkins - 26-02-2020

Jack Hawkins is a writer and film critic. He’s interested in films from every genre and every era, but his favourite work comes from the world of neo-noir and the New Hollywood auteurs. ...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
A small family of four lives in a [Read More...]
Another year has gone by, and DMovies is [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]

Read More

Seven books that became dirty movies

 

Mariano Garcia - 30-11-2022

Our reader Mariano Garcia blends cinema with the fabulous world of literature, demonstrating that it is indeed possible to grab popcorn and read a boom at the same time [Read More...]

The Flour Test (O Teste da Farinha)

Victor Fraga
2022

Eoghan Lyng - 30-11-2022

Brazilian journalist and filmmaker offers British viewers an overview of his native country, and its complicated history of male homosexuality. [Read More...]

PÖFF’s Critics’ Picks Competition: The Aftermath

 

Jeremy Clarke - 29-11-2022

Jeremy Clarke assesses his first visit to the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, and his views of the brand new Critics' Picks competitive strand [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *