Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of making my own 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 Sixty Eight: True History of the Kelly Gang

I was disappointed to watch this experimental new Western dissolve into a mess as it went along. It shows so much promise at the beginning with striking visuals, a slow but consistent pace, and the best performance Russell Crowe has given in years.

The formative years of Kelly turn out to be the most interested in Kurzel’s version of the outlaw tale. Crowe, as many have said playing a kind of Falstaff bandit mentor, is at ease in the role but not on autopilot. I’ve longed for years to see him take on another role that uses his skills appropriately. This does, only he’s removed from the narrative far too soon.

Not long after, it starts to deflate and lose its way. Some of the wilder elements of Kurzel’s version are eye-catching, like the crossdressing and blunt sexuality but none of these things have enough time for the viewer to really soak in. That’s ultimately the problem with this Kelly story: everything comes and goes too quickly with no time to understand its significance. The romance with Mary has no chance to develop depth. Neither does Kelly’s friendship with Joe and therefore we don’t feel as much as we could near the end.

As the film goes along, Kurzel dives more into style and loses his interest in character development. It’s a shame when the first twenty minutes were so strong.

Seen on Amazon.