Ned Kelly - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Ned Kelly Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 8, 2011
Well that was lovely and depressing now, wasn't it? And a bit of a spoiler, but that is the second time I have had to watch Orlando Bloom die on screen. It doesn't get any easier. Speaking of, I liked him in this role! Less stiff and form, a bit cuter and jokey than oh... all of his other roles? I also wished Geoffrey Rush's part was a bit bigger, but such is life. I liked it for what it was, but I was overwhelmingly captivated by it all. I watched it for pretty faces and I kinda got that.
Super Reviewer
May 17, 2007
This outback-set western is based on the life of Ned Kelly, Australia's most celebrated outlaw who enjoyed a Robin Hood like reputation in the late 19th century. Although a lot of period set, rose-tinted tales of the old west tend to romanticize their heroes, Ned Kelly's reverential treatment of the subject matter goes beyond romanticism and into sheer fantasy. All the lawmen are a bunch of corrupt, murdering rapists, save Geoffrey Rush who hardly gets a look in, and Ned Kelly is shown as a totally innocent and noble champion of the people and he and his gang sweep through the land robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, stopping only for some wombat stew and to bed some swooning groupies. The characterisation as a whole is borderline laughable, Heath Ledger having little to do but attach a small shrub to his face and look earnest. It does have some decent photography and a decent shoot out at the climax, but the endless quivering lower lips accompanied by penny whistles that lead there makes it barely worthwhile. Content to rip off the likes of Jesse James and Braveheart rather than present anything approaching a believable portrait of the man, this pseudo-historical claptrap left me rather cold and far worse, rather bored.
Super Reviewer
½ March 27, 2009
Story of the impoverished Irish immigrant Kelly family living in Australia in the latter part of the 19th century. Bushranger Ned Kelly(Heath Ledger) is wrongfully accused and imprisoned of stealing a horse, but emerges a few years later with his mother and siblings in which he makes money as a bare-knuckle boxer. After Ned and his mother are unjustly charged with murder, Ned Kelly is determined to avenge his family's name and strike back against his people's oppressors.
Ledger's portrayal of the Jesse James-esque Kelly is quite brilliant as he and his gang become the invincible "outlaws" of the Outback. Ned Kelly becomes a legend/hero, and still is to this day for his valor, and keen insight into justice so often ignored by so called authority figures.
Super Reviewer
½ October 8, 2007
To be perfectly honest, the initial reason I rented this was for the eye candy, but Orlando Bloom and Heath Ledger really aren't much to look at under big beards. The story itself is what propells this film, and it's interesting to see the Old West-type frontier in a country other than America. The image of the final showdown is really strikingly iconic, but the movie itself is relatively slow.
Super Reviewer
March 28, 2008
An impressive and remarkable western epic. A great and thrilling action-packed adventure. Heath Ledger gives an outstanding performance.
Super Reviewer
½ February 11, 2008
This is one of those movies where the stars look immaculately unkempt: not a hair out of place that wasn't deliberately positioned so. Try as they might, Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom cannot quite manage to distract our attention from the make-up chair just out of shot, in lieu of a hedge to be drawn through backwards. The film offers such a romanticised portrait of its anti-hero that it makes those early Hollywood tributes to Billy the Kid and Jesse James look positively restrained in their revisionism. As if the deck wasn't already stacked in Kelly's favour, Naomi Watts' character is only there to recycle that hoary old cliche of the noble man who would rather go to the gallows than besmirch a lady's reputation with his alibi. The film is nicely photographed in general, but it somehow manages to reduce the unique splendour of the Australian countryside to a generic wilderness, which could be just about anywhere. If you're desperate for an Aussie bushranger movie, I would recommend "The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith" or "The Proposition": better movies which do justice to the singularly beautiful landscape.
Super Reviewer
½ January 3, 2007
This new Aussie biogrpahy of a famous bushranger is getting more better than 1970 film with absolutely story.
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2015
Out of all the film's that have been inspired by the 'legend' that Ned Kelly has become, this particular 2003 interpretation of Australia's most famous Bushranger (or "Wild Colonial Boy", an Outlaw of Colonial Australia) is the most entertaining screen version of the Bushranger's life and exploits that have made him such an icon to Australia alone. I humbly admire every bit of the effort everyone involved put into this film; to bring the story of Ned Kelly to the big screen. I must say the cinematography, production design, costumes and make up are every bit as exceptional as what any other previous Colonial Australia films have portrayed in the past, It really does look like you're stepping back in time. Heath Ledger is certainly one of the finest actors to have ever played the role of Ned Kelly, add to that you've got several more internationally known actors such as Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom in very significant memorable roles, not to mention there are some minor roles from now very well known Australian actors such as Joel Edgerton and Emily Browning. Klaus Bedelt's score even gives the film a great sense of poetic Colonial life and gives us just as much of a primary storytelling essence as the actual film itself. Add to that, with such an incredibly poetic and immersive script along with Ledger's performance, this gives us an insight as to what Ned did and why he did what he did. While not one hundred per cent historically accurate, the craftsmanship and character study essence is what really makes this film worth it, and it's easy enough to come to this film with very little to 'no' knowledge about who Ned Kelly is. But in defining everything about the man or legend Ned Kelly has since become (and will remain), then look no further than to seek out this very underrated and magnificently made film purely for your own historical or entertainment fascination.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ April 8, 2011
It has a good deal of high points, good production value, a solid score and another great performance from Ledger, as well as from his castmates. However, the predominant dullness, underused narrative, occasional disturbances and lack of depth leave Gregor Jordan's "Ned Kelly" to draw a little sloppily, but still hit its mark to an extent.
Super Reviewer
July 20, 2012
Star studded cast, together retells the great Australian legend: Ned Kelly. A little bit shallow on showing more depth of the legend, it's kinda a neo-western with some elements of epic films. Orlando Bloom proved to be a surprisingly good actor as he plays Joe Byrne. However, the film glorified an outlaw which was slightly depressing, totally improved the reputation of Australians.
Super Reviewer
½ May 23, 2009
Good movie! It had humor, action, and romance. I usually enjoy any movie that Heath Ledger is in, and this one didn't disappoint me!
Super Reviewer
January 2, 2008
Although described as an epic, and despite desperate attempts to achieve such status, 'Ned Kelly' never quite reaches brilliant film-making on that sort of scale. Throughout the course of the film we sense that that is what it wants to be, but the director just isn't quite sure of what to do to make it as such. So instead we are left with a B-grade of the genre, even though there isn't such a thing - an epic is an epic - isn't it? Heath Ledger becomes the heroic protagonist but never quite seems to know what he's doing, although the simple script helps him out for the most part. There's some nice action and attempts at sensitivity and realism work for the most part. The main problem is the romance between Ledger and Naomi Watts - it's far too sudden and the director doesn't even attempt to make us believe in its genunuity - no convincing or persuading. It's just presented and the audience are forced to accept it, but can't. Geoffrey Rush too is sorely underused as the police captain, a role he would have manifested brilliantly would the script allow it, but he still does his best. The finale has a lot more impact than most of the film, and while exciting and full of action is also rather spirited - which is quite of touch with the rest of the film.
February 15, 2010
So bad. Heath Ledger's dreadful Irish accent is distracting as is his poorly exaggerated acting. The movie is unbearably slow and difficult to watch. (First viewing - In my early twenties)
½ January 15, 2014
I could not get into Ned Kelly. The movie rarely held my interest. It's decently made with a few good parts and a handful of talented actors, but it's just so damn dull, drab and dour. Heath Ledger was all right as Kelly, Orlando Bloom never really stood out to me, and I thought Geoffrey Rush was underused as Kelly's nemesis.
Like I said, Ned Kelly is a decent movie. It's just not compelling enough to merit multiple viewings, or really even first viewings unless you're in the mood for a depiction of the Australian outlaw.
July 27, 2013
I don't know if donning make shift armor is factually correct, but I know it made for a cheesy scene. Otherwise, good (Australian) western.
July 27, 2013
I don't know if the part where they don home made armor is real, but it is cheesy. Otherwise, I liked this movie.
May 25, 2013
Ned Kelly (Gregor Jordan, 2003)

One every week or two, I sort my Netflix queue by average rating and grab something from the bottom five. I usually get a good time out of it-if the entire Netflix community hates it, then by golly, there must be something good about it! I tried a variation on the theme last week-since my queue had exactly 330 movies in it, I went to movie #165, right smack in the middle. That turned out to be Gregor Jordan's 2003 biopic Ned Kelly, one of the Heath Ledger movies I can imagine myself ever sitting through (as much as I love Heath Ledger, sorry, A Knight's Tale will never pass these eyes) that I'd never seen, so I hit play and settled in for what Netflix's myriad users promised me was going to be a perfectly average time. I think the movie is a touch better than average, but most of its problems are overlookable.

If you're unfamiliar with Australian history (and I will be the first to admit I am nowhere near familiar enough with it to tell you how much of this Jordan got right and how much he made up out of whole cloth), Ned Kelly (Ledger) was a nineteenth-century outlaw/folk hero, which took some doing given Australia's beginnings as a prison colony; how bad do you have to be to get branded an outlaw in the Manhattan of Escape from New York? As the story opens, we see Kelly getting rousted by the law for stealing a horse. (We don't know if he did or not-Kelly's acquisition of said horse, which he claims he found roaming free, takes place the day before the opening sequence. I may be over-reading, but I believe Jordan's intention was for us to believe Kelly is telling the truth here.) Things escalate from there through the first roughly half-hour of the film, culminating in one of Ned's brothers getting into a firefight with the law, which is then blamed on Ned (who wasn't even in the house at the time). Ned's mother is thrown in prison as a way to get Ned to turn himself in; instead, Ned, his brother Dan (Boy Eats Girl's Laurence Kinlan), and their respective best friends Joseph Byrne (Lord of the Rings franchise mainstay Orlando Bloom) and Steve Hart (The Escapist's Philip Barantini), form an outlaw band, base themselves in the wilderness, and start robbing banks. This turns out to be a relatively easy way of making money in rural Australia, and before long, Ned Kelly is sending goading letters to the cops-in one memorable scene from the movie, partially using verbiage supplied him by the "hostages" the Kelly Gang have taken in the bank, all of whom are enthusiastic supporters by the time they leave-and transforming from "armed and dangerous" to "can I have your autograph?". However, the law is unamused, and calls in Francis Hare (Quills' Geoffrey Rush), notorious for his strong-arm tactics with lawbreakers.

It's a fun little thing, though it feels like, given that it's a docudrama, it should have more weight behind it. It also feels like a good deal got left on the cutting-room floor (Naomi Watts' character, who exists in order to provide a romantic subplot, seems like she got a lot more screen time in earlier cuts of the movie), but that could simply be because Jordan is so obsessed with Heath Ledger. Which is understandable; Heath Ledger never encountered a camera that didn't fall in love with him, though that tendency does give folks who end up in movies with him short shrift. It almost feels like the camera is snubbing Bloom in a couple of scenes here. I found that, well, kind of amusing actually. Your mileage will probably vary. Ned Kelly is a good movie, but it feels like it could have been a great one. ***
November 17, 2007
I wanted to see this for so long I was afraid I might end up not liking it in the end. But of course in the end I loved everything about it.

I love the story of Ned Kelly. Before watching this movie I read up on some of the history, but seeing it played out like this was the best way I can think of to learn the story.
July 7, 2012
First i'd like to say that Heath Ledger can play any role you throw out at him. And Orlando Bloom didn't do so bad either. Actually the whole cast was pretty great and they all did good in this Irish movie based off the infamous Ned Kelly. (The movies based of a true story).

The only thing that went wrong was the screenplay. It got boring and dragged sometimes but it was redeemed by the good acting. If your a Ledger fan I think you should watch it but otherwise its up to you.
June 25, 2012
Perhaps It Comes of Having Been a Penal Colony

The Wikipedia article about Ned Kelly, herein played by Heath Ledger, makes for some interesting reading. The movie mostly correlates to Kelly's own version of events--mostly--but of course, there's no reason to assume that his was the most accurate telling. The Wikipedia article mostly cites period sources--and reads like one. It may not quite be in line with their usual standards, but you have to love any article which informs you that "After this episode the outlaws retired to sleep." In fact, I half-believe that most of the article is in fact plagiarized from old articles, because the language is so stilted. There are also a few places where there are unnecessary italics which would be fully in keeping with an article written more than a hundred years ago. I suspect the whole thing has amused more than one Australian grade school teacher who read it when a student plagiarized Wikipedia for their report.

The Kelly family lived in Victoria in those long-ago days, though why the late Red Kelly was transported, no one seems entirely sure. Consensus seems to be that he stole a couple of pigs. Well, Ireland in those days was no fun. And being poor and Irish in Victoria of the 1870s wasn't much fun, either. (Descriptions of what happened will, in this paragraph, be strictly what happened in the movie.) While his eldest son, Ned, may have been a bit of a troublemaker, the police also seem to have had it in for him. He got three years' hard labour for stealing a horse, which he merely caught for a man who claimed to own it. He didn't--but "Wild" Wright (Russell Dykstra) served eighteen months for the theft, certainly not fair. The Kellys also had problems with various of the local policemen, culminating in a fight at the Kelly house. Mrs. Kelly (Kris McQuade) is arrested for attempted murder, which causes Ned to go on a rampage because the police will not let him trade himself for his mother's freedom.

The whole thing is a bit Bonnie-and-Clyde, in the sense that Bonnie and Clyde were vicious thugs who have been romanticized ever since their crime spree. I don't dispute that, from just glancing over the Wikipedia page, it seems as though Ned Kelly got a raw deal from the Victoria police. There are several occasions described where he was arrested simply because he'd been arrested before, or where someone got a lighter sentence for a worse crime, which all makes it look as though someone there had it in for him. Though probably not then-premier Graham Berry (Charles "Bud" Tingwell)--yes, really, and the man had some epic facial hair. Geoffrey Rush also plays Superintendent Francis Hare as a man doing a job, not like various of the other police characters who want the glory of bringing in the notorious outlaw band. However, the portrayal of Ned Kelly as a man driven to the edge to protect his family doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

He is, of course, a national folk hero in Australia, which is the other way he compares to Bonnie and Clyde, Billy the Kid, or what have you. All four have been portrayed as fighting against the banks and the evil forces of government to protect the Little Guy, and in no case is it really true. This movie has a touching scene wherein Ned and Joseph Byrne (Orlando Bloom) burn up a bunch of mortgage papers so that the bank won't know who owes them how much. This is, of course, completely ridiculous on at least two levels. Yes, Ned did refuse to steal a man's watch at one of the burglaries--but he was also the one to initially ask for it, and the only reason he didn't take it was that the victim's mother had given it to him. The movie cobbles together a romance for Ned with Julia Cook (Naomi Watts), who as far as I can tell isn't even a historical figure. She is there to represent the English landowners--ironically enough, mostly opposed in the Victorian government by Premiere Berry.

Oh, it's a pretty enough movie, and that's just its leads. Geoffrey Rush is in it, though only just barely. The Australian countryside gets considerably more air time and is scenic as always. (And this isn't the desperate dry heat of much of the continent; there's actually water here.) The final shootout is one of the most ludicrous ever committed to film; I would really like someone to explain what the lion is doing there. But the movie spends so much time romanticizing its main character that it doesn't really [i]do[/i] anything with him, much less his costars. About the only notable thing they do with Orlando Bloom's character is make him speak Chinese. Impressive enough, to be sure, but not enough to sustain interest. I now watch movies like this with a mild sense of regret, because I learned what Heath Ledger was capable of, and it was more than this. The story of Ned Kelly deserves a better treatment than this, too; it's a shame the two didn't match up, because the Australian film industry lost its chance there.
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