Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of finishing post and releasing my 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.


Week 114: Ned Kelly

My focus this month on Australian Westerns continues with this film shot in Australian, about one of the country’s most famous folk heroes, and yet admittedly it was a British production and one with mixed results.

Some might struggle to take the movie seriously with Mick Jagger in the lead but he’s actually one of the best parts of this endeavor. He takes it seriously and has great energy, something that could have been unleashed into the Western version of Clockwork Orange under the right direction. This film shows hints of those possibilities in its first quarter but sadly doesn’t go there and instead settles into a very repetitive and ultimately boring series of Kelly’s crimes. By the time I got to the big finale, my senses were dulled and I didn’t care about our characters near enough.

The biggest mistake by far is the music. The songs sung mostly by Waylon Jennings and Kristofferson are so wrong for the tone of this film and its setting that I cringed as they continued to fill the soundtrack. Recently, I watched another Australian Western which is full of songs, The Tracker, but they are incredibly effective because they relate to Australia’s history and the heritage of the people. These folk country ballads belong in an American movie, not one from down under… It’s an odd choice and one that really ruined many of the film’s scenes for me.

This is the third Kelly film I’ve seen so far. It’s been too long since I watched the 2000s Ledger version to comment on it. The most recent “True History” version is a messy movie that doesn’t work more often than it does but still deserves points for originality. This one also fails to really bring the outlaw’s life successfully to the screen. It’s worth a look but it will probably leave you wanting a film that finally does the folk hero justice.

Watched on Amazon Prime.