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Ned Kelly review

Ned Kelly
15certificate 15
Running time: 109 minutes
Starring: Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Naomi Watts, Laurence Kinlan, Phil Barantini, Kerry Condon
Rating 7 out of 10
The whole world loves a folk hero. Britain has Robin Hood, America has Davy Crockett and Australia has Ned Kelly. The thing they all share is the blurred lines between fact and fiction. On screen any rough edges to their personalities are ironed out, evil deeds omitted and in an instant history is changed for ever.

While Gregor Jordan's film sticks quite closely to the accepted legend that is Ned Kelly, Hollywood has been allowed to rear its 'mass market' head, add a love interest that never existed and thereby soften the overall impact of the film.

The son of poor Irish immigrants, the teenage Ned Kelly is imprisoned on trumped up charges of horse stealing. It's not surprising then that after a four year sentence he emerges embittered against a brutal police force that is actively prejudiced against the Irish.

Things really turn bad when Ned's younger sister Kate is assaulted by a police officer who then lies about the attack and charges Ned and his mother with attempted murder. Forced to go on the run, Ned is determined to avenge his family and strike back at the system that has wronged them.

He forms a gang with his brother Dan and friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. So begins their journey through the outback robbing banks to survive, staying one step ahead of the police. The gang's reputation grows making them the most wanted men in Australia, but all the while the noose is tightening leading them to an Inn in Glenrowan and the film's bloody conclusion.

Ned Kelly is a competently made film that leaves the viewer with a feeling of what might have been. The spectacular outback of Walkabout has been rendered drab. Heather Ledger gives a solid performance in the lead but Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush are woefully underused. Rush's part - as the Superintendent leading the army to catch Kelly - is pivotal to understanding the hatred in 1880's Australia towards the Irish, but he is given less screen time than the aforementioned love story.

The best is definitely saved till last though as the final shoot out, complete with an iron-clad Kelly staggering defiantly towards the police ranks, is as good as anything you'd see in Butch Cassidy. It's just a shame that the rest of the film fails to live up to it. If you are looking for an answer to the question Ned Kelly: mass murderer or social victim? look elsewhere...this is Hollywood after all.

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