Ned Kelly (Widescreen) product details page

Ned Kelly (Widescreen)

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There's revisionist history, and then there's Gregor Jordan's Ned Kelly. Kelly -- Australian folklore's answer to Jesse James, but with a clearer conscience -- may not be much known to American audiences, for whom this film was probably intended. But that doesn't mean liberties of the highest order should be taken with the man's life, which is what Jordan and screenwriter John Michael McDonagh are guilty of. The iconic image of Kelly -- as much as there is one -- features a lone warrior decked out in full body armor, with only a horizontal opening at eye level, shooting it out with an enormous posse of corrupt police officers. But in Jordan's film, Kelly's entire gang is outfitted in the mythic battle gear -- gear that Kelly, quite famously, wore only himself. The film also invents certain key characters, such as a prim British love interest (Naomi Watts), as though the actual facts of Kelly's life were little more than raw materials. But enumerating the film's inaccuracies may not be the most useful critical approach for the average filmgoer, who's more interested in whether Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom make strapping and likeable Outback outlaws. The verdict here is also grim, in part because McDonagh offers too little of their back story, too little of the systemic prejudices and conspiracies that forced them to defend themselves and others against government injustice, sometimes leading to bloodshed. Instead, the film spends too much time painting Bloom's Joe Byrne as a rakish lout, and Ledger as a generic blue collar hero given to gruffly inspirational speechifying, which seems vaguely ridiculous without better context. The second attempt to tell this story, following a disappointing 1970 version starring Mick Jagger, Ned Kelly confirms that it may be awhile before Australia's most complicated hero gets effectively exported to the world. Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide