With Sweet Country, The Nightingale, and now True History of the Kelly Gang, the outback western is having a real moment, bringing a more than welcome Aussie chaos to that most epic and stately of genres. Justin Kurzel’s Kelly Gang marks the sub-genre’s finest hour, adding to the mix the unreliability of memory and history to make for a mesmerising, brain-melting masterpiece.

Based on Peter Carey’s novel, Kelly Gang makes it immediately clear that we’re witnessing a highly fictionalised story of the life of infamous bush ranger Ned Kelly. We witness Ned grow up from a boy (impressive newcomer Orlando Schwerdt), to a man (George MacKay), shaped along the way by his whirlwind of a mother, Ellen (Essie Davis), legendary thief Harry Power (Russell Crowe), and a hatred of the law.

MacKay is incredible as Ned, a role as physically demanding as his recent work in 1917 but with a deeper and darker emotional core, and the supporting cast match him. Davis is a haunting, haunted presence, while Crowe provides the mix of warmth and danger that only he can. Towering over everyone, though, is Nicholas Hoult as the obsessive Constable Fitzpatrick, Ned’s nemesis. He’s phenomenal, putting in a career-best performance that leaves even his superb displays in Mad Max and The Favourite in the dust.

After the misfire of Assassin’s Creed, Kurzel is back to full form here. Every shot ranges from simply gorgeous to downright spectacular, and the stroboscopic chaos of his shootouts make for heart-in-mouth intensity every time.

In a truly sublime touch, Kurzel represents Ned’s fracturing psyche through the introduction of anachronisms, from songs to costumes, a technique that burrows under your skin. Completing the stylistic triumph is Jed Kurzel’s wild animal of a score. Everything about Kelly Gang feels dangerous in the most exciting way possible.



CAST: George MacKay, Orlando Schwerdt, Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult, Russell Crowe, Charlie Hunnam

DIRECTOR: Justin Kurzel

WRITERS: Shaun Grant (screenplay), Peter Carey (novel)

SYNOPSIS: Based on Peter Carey’s novel. The story of Australian bush ranger Ned Kelly and his gang as they flee from authorities during the 1870s.