Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival

True History of the Kelly Gang

1 screenings

24 JUL 2020 — Film



New Zealand International Film Festival


124 minutes


R16: Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & content that may disturb

Australia 2019


From Sir Sydney Nolan’s epic paintings to Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel, Ned Kelly has come a long way to find himself thundering on horseback across a barren moonlit landscape, dressed only in boots and a flowing lace frock, in this dazzling postmodern version of the outlaw legend.  

Adapting Carey’s 2001 novel of the same name, director Justin Kurzel’s Ned Kelly (1917’s George McKay as an adult) lives out his short but audacious life writ-large in punk graffiti scrawled across a canvas far bigger and more surreal than any other film or cultural to depiction to date.

Ned spends the film failing to win the love of his mother Ellen (Essie Davis, more complex and luminous than ever), who at one point sells the child to her sometime-lover and bushranger Harry Power (Russell Crowe) – a gesture one wonders might be as much to deflect Ned’s burgeoning Oedipal gaze as it is to earn a pretty coin. Ned finds some intermittent consolation in the arms of young sex worker Rose (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), a cynical soulmate of sorts, while we’re encouraged to deduce he also shares something deeper and more urgent than just fraternal bro-hood with his loyal friend and Kelly Gang member Joe Byrne (Sean Keenan). No putting this gang into any binary corner.

Kelly’s justified rage against the colonial constabulary, endowed with some disconcerting allure in Charlie Hunnam’s predatory Sgt O’Neil and the louche decadence of Nicolas Hoult’s Constable Fitzpatrick, fuels his rapid ascent to anti-heroic superstardom. This positions Ned as the more famous cousin of Clare, the vengeful protagonist of Jennifer Kent’s gut-wrenching The Nightingale (NZIFF19), while Kurzel adds here an Irish paean to the howl of rage which was Warwick Thornton’s unforgettable Sweet Country. — Marten Rabarts

Presented in association with Phantom Billstickers.


Justin Kurzel


Hal Vogel, Liz Watts, Paul Ranford, Justin Kurzel


Shaun Grant. Based on the novel by Peter Carey


Ari Wegner


Nick Fenton


Karen Murphy

Production Designer

Alice Babidge

Costume Designer

Jed Kurzel



George MacKay

Ned Kelly

Essie Davis

Ellen Kelly

Nicholas Hoult

Constable Fitzpatrick

Charlie Hunnam

Sgt O’Neil

Russell Crowe

Harry Power

Orlando Schwerdt

young Ned Kelly

Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie

Mary Hearn

Sean Keenan

Joe Byrne

Earl Cave

Dan Kelly

Marlon Williams

George King

Louis Hewison

Steve Hart


Toronto 2019

Dates &

Fri 24 Jul 7:30 PM

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Adult $18.50

Student $15.50

Senior $12.50

Multi-Trip Pass $77.50

It’s myth-making, splattered in blood, scored with an electric guitar, and enacted with such brazen bigness that you wouldn’t be surprised if the cast assembled for a curtain call at the end.
— Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com

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