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 romanticise their heroes, Ned Kelly’s reverential treatment of the subject matter goes beyond romanticism and into sheer fantasy. All the lawmen on show are 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. In its favour, it does have some nice 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 somewhat cold and far worse, rather bored.