Ned Kelly (2003) starring Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Naomi Watts, Joel Edgerton, Laurence Kinlan, Philip Barantini, Kerry Condon directed by Gregor Jordan Movie Review

Ned Kelly (2003)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Heath Ledger as Ned Kelly

Ledger's Kelly feels the Rush

Watching "Ned Kelly" now you sort of find yourself comparing it to "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" as they both tackle the subject of notorious outlaws and both have a similar dry style. But where as I found "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" drawn out and over long "Ned Kelly" is sort of the opposite, covering just the facts with little embellishment. And as for those facts well it's hard to say what is fact or fiction as we learn how Ned ended up becoming enemy number one to the authorities and a hero too many but this is certainly a movie which favours the hero side of Kelly's character. It is also a movie which at times is hard work, not because of any complexity but thick Irish brogues which border on the incomprehensible.

The year is 1871 and Ned Kelly (Heath Ledger - 10 Things I Hate About You) finds himself in trouble with the law over the theft of a horse, it gets him sent inside and when he returns he discovers his family have fallen on hard times. Despite attempts to keep on the straight and narrow Ned finds himself and his family victimized by the police forcing him and a small group of friends and family to go on the run, becoming champions of the people but enemies of the state. So despised is Ned that the ruthless Superintendent Francis Hare (Geoffrey Rush - House on Haunted Hill) is called in to hunt Ned and the Kelly gang down using any method of law enforcement they care to.

Geoffrey Rush as Superintendent Francis Hare in Ned Kelly

So as already mentioned I don't know the truth about Ned Kelly, I don't know whether he was a ruthless cop killing outlaw or a Robin Hood type character who gave to those who needed it. About the only thing I really knew was that in the final shoot out Ned wore body armour to reflect the barrage of gun fire. But what is very evident and it is from the word go, "Ned Kelly" is a movie all about Ned being the champion of the people who ends up in a life of crime due to the mistreatment he and his family suffered at the hands of the law.

For some this one sided view maybe wrong although it does provide a fascinating story as to why Ned did become the notorious outlaw. From his early imprisonment for supposedly stealing a horse through to the way the police arrested his mother on a trumped up charge against him, it provides plenty of reasoning. And this reasoning is constantly reinforced as we watch Ned and the Kelly gang descend in to a life of crime, robbing banks but doing so in a very fair and gentlemanly manner, explaining to his captive audience the reasoning for his actions. It is a little too one sided and doesn't show his ruthless side in an honest light but as a movie which aims to show him as a hero "Ned Kelly" certainly does that.

Because "Ned Kelly" is a movie which aims to portray Ned as the hero it has depth but not as much as you expect. It almost feels like a series of events from Kelly's short but illustrious career cherry picked so that the viewpoint of being mistreated can be put across. But because there is no counter argument, no showing him as a cold blooded cop killer as he was also known as makes it feel lacking. Despite this it does mean that the movie jaunts along at a good pace and its 110 minutes fly by as we go from one event and moment of action to the next.

Ignoring an issue I have with the accents for a moment "Ned Kelly" is well acted and Heath Ledger is very good as the notorious outlaw. Despite this coming across as a very one sided view point there are times that Ledger manages to bring out Ned's anger as well as elements of remorse for all the deaths he witnesses. But here is the thing and this concerns many of the actors, the thick Irish brogue may be authentic, it may not be but it often makes it incomprehensible and hard work to understand. It's a shame as "Ned Kelly" isn't a movie that demands great attention but the thickness of the accents causes you to have to.

What this all boils down to is that "Ned Kelly" is a good movie because it does entertain and is well paced. But at the same time it is a very one sided movie which only sets out to portray Ned Kelly as a hero to the people. As such I can only guess that the line between fact and fiction has been heavily blurred in the making of the movie but in doing so it does make for some good entertainment.