Ned Kelly (1970)

Ned Kelly lurks

Ned Kelly lurks

I suppose it goes without saying that movies about national heroes who were, in all likelihood, not the awesomest people in the world, are probably not going to be very good. Take the case of bushranger Ned Kelly, for instance. Born to an Irish father transported to Australia for stealing two pigs, Ned Kelly continued to pay for his father’s venial sins, as did so many other children of transported convicts in the early days of Australia: the law enforcement and rich English settlers of Australia exercised extreme prejudice against the children of transported criminals, so folks like Ned Kelly didn’t have much of a chance at succeeding in life, even if he did opt for the straight-and-narrow.

There are, of course, many versions of the story, and the 1970 film Ned Kelly, starring Mick Jagger is just another drop in the bucket. Here, Kelly is portrayed as a kind soul who is imprisoned for theft in

The Kelly home

The Kelly home

what seems to be an extreme sentence: the law enforcement have a point to prove, and an example to make. Ned and his family are the prime target, and no matter what they do, the cops never cease harassing them. Ned has no choice but to take to the bush and live life constantly on watch, running from the police and stealing for a living. The story, of course, doesn’t have a happy ending – Ned Kelly is eventually found, tried and hanged.

Whether or not Ned Kelly should be lauded as a folk hero or condemned as a criminal is irrelevant to the fact that this film just isn’t very good. It sure as hell couldn’t convince me that Ned Kelly was a good guy. Heck, it couldn’t even really tell a cohesive story. Instead, it relied on the soundtrack – songs written by Shel Silverstein and sung by Waylon Jennings – to tell the audience the background, the sentiment of Australia, and the outcome

When Ned Kelly looks in the mirror, what does he see? Mick Jagger's beard.

When Ned Kelly looks in the mirror, what does he see? Mick Jagger’s beard.

of the story, because it was incapable of evoking any emotion whatsoever out of the audience on its own.

This was just a hard movie to watch. And, not unlike the 2003 film of the same name starring Heath Ledger, it’s just too one-sided to really be any good. It tries, at times, to do some interesting things, but it’s all done very poorly. What would be interesting to see is a film about Ned Kelly that actually delves deeper into the ramifications of transportation than the archetypal law bad, bushranger good dichotomy we see here. Oh wait, I saw that movie, it was Nick Cave’s The Proposition! Sure, it’s not exactly about Ned Kelly, but it’s close enough, and it’s much better than this.


2 Responses to “Ned Kelly (1970)”

  1. February 6, 2014 at 3:01 am

    Plain and simple – if you are the star, you better be able to carry the ball.
    Not really his fault, but Mick just doesn’t have IT.

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