True History Of The Kelly Gang – ★★✩✩✩

Certificate – 18
Directed By – Justin Kurzel
Starring – George MacKay, Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult, Thomasin McKenzie, Russell Crowe, Charlie Hunnam.
Running Time – 125 Minutes (2 Hours 5 Minutes)

It was by chance that I came across this film as I was searching the Kelly Gang while watching Michael Portillo’s Great Australian Railway Journeys and was incredibly interested.

Add the fact it had a fantastic assembled cast, and the trailer does a great job of hyping the movie, so going into the screening I was excited, but since leaving said screening I’ve been thinking about it.

What Is True History Of The Kelly Gang About?

The Australian Western follows the life and death of the iconic outlaw Ned Kelly (MacKay) taking inspiration from Peter Carey’s prize-winning novel. As youth and tragedy collide in the Kelly Gang, and the beating heart of this tale is the fractured and compelling love story between a mother and a son.

Is It Any Good?

In a lot of ways, there’s plenty to like from the beautiful scenery shots by Kurzel and the decent job by the cast.

The highlights are MacKay and Davis they’re both wonderful as you watch this messed up mother and son relationship. You can see they hate each other, but their love is so strong they can never be apart.

Image via Picturehouse

It’s something Kelly talks about and he would ultimately die for her

MacKay is fantastic in the role, and there’s a moment where you see the question of if he’s an anti-hero or villain until they go over the top and portray him as someone crazy.

Meanwhile, Davis plays an awful woman fantastically as you’re unsure if she does love her children or use them for her own gain.

Image via Picturehouse

As for the supporting roles, Hoult plays slimy British prick brilliantly balancing the role of being a friend and ultimately foe. Then with McKenzie, I would’ve loved to see more of as the film hints to her being the good in Kelly’s heart.

Finally, with Hunnam (and his wonderful Geordie accent) and Crowe, you’re shown to the two awful people that created the man Kelly was going to become and in his messed up way Crowe’s Harry Power love Ned like his own.

Returning to Kurzel, who can see he returned to his Macbeth style and wanting to make the landscape its own character and is beautifully shot and the image of Kelly in front of the Union Jack is a great shot.

Image via Picturehouse

Anything Bad About The Films?

It’s clear Kurzel wanted to make a punk rock film, but the thing about punk rock is that it’s fast and furious. Two words I wouldn’t describe this movie because at two hours and five minutes it is far too long and could’ve been 20 minutes shorter.

Meanwhile, portraying Kelly as a nutter does the legend some disservice because the question about Kelly it seems for Australians is if this man is a national hero (or at least anti-hero) or villain who killed many police officer and robbed banks.

Image via Picturehouse

They only minimally focus on this, and it ruins the enjoyment of the film and the potential of this cast.

While I like gritty movies, it needs to be done well. This was overly grim and depressing and with the run time ultimately getting bored.

I believe there’s a great movie to be had with Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang, but sadly this isn’t it.


A great cast with some brilliant performances but the potential is wasted. There’s a great film to be had with Ned Kelly, but his punk rock attempt fails.

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