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True History of the Kelly Gang


Essie Davis and Orlando Schwerdt star in a scene from the movie "True History of the Kelly Gang." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/courtesy IFC Films)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- While the real-life legacy of Australia's famous 19th-century outlaw Ned Kelly may be disputed, the cinematic appeal of his career can hardly be doubted. When it premiered in 1906, "The Story of the Kelly Gang" was the longest movie ever made and is now widely regarded as the world's first feature film.

Flash forward more than a century and screenwriter Shaun Grant and director Justin Kurzel present their take on the legendary bushranger in "True History of the Kelly Gang" (IFC). This adaptation of Peter Carey's 2000 novel, while intense, is also, unfortunately, brutal and nihilistic.

Grant and Kurzel's reimagining feverishly recounts Kelly's youth, during which he's played by Orlando Schwerdt, and his adulthood, when he's portrayed by George MacKay. Along the way, he becomes the center of a web of mostly unwholesome relationships.

We're shown his volatile bond with his fierce mother, Ellen (Essie Davis), his apprenticeship with Harry Power (Russell Crowe), a kindly seeming but savage thief, his persecution at the hands of Constable Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult), a pathological police official, and his romance with Mary (Thomasin McKenzie), a prostitute. It makes for a sordid chronicle.

The view of human nature furnished by this bold, relentlessly disturbing picture, moreover, is one of almost universal degradation. Mary is depicted as a loving, albeit out-of-wedlock, mom. But otherwise virtue is nowhere to be found, only an endless cycle of oppression and the revenge it provokes.

The film contains skewed values, much gory violence, strong sexual content, including aberrant acts, implied premarital activity and rear nudity, gruesome images, at least one use of profanity as well as pervasive rough and occasional crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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CAPSULE REVIEW

"True History of the Kelly Gang" (IFC)

Brutal reimagining of the life and legacy of Australia's famous 19th-century outlaw, Ned Kelly, played in childhood by Orlando Schwerdt and as an adult by George MacKay. In adapting Peter Carey's 2000 novel, screenwriter Shaun Grant and director Justin Kurzel trace the bush ranger's volatile relationship with his fierce mother (Essie Davis), his apprenticeship with a kindly seeming but savage thief (Russell Crowe), his persecution by a pathological police officer (Nicholas Hoult) and his romance with a prostitute (Thomasin McKenzie). The view of human nature presented by this bold, relentlessly disturbing film is, with the exception of McKenzie's character -- a loving albeit out-of-wedlock mom -- so universally degraded that virtue is nowhere to be found, only an endless cycle of oppression and the revenge it provokes. Skewed values, much gory violence, strong sexual content, including aberrant acts, implied premarital activity and rear nudity, gruesome images, at least one use of profanity, pervasive rough and occasional crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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CLASSIFICATION

"True History of the Kelly Gang" (IFC) -- Catholic News Service classification, O -- morally offensive. Motion Picture Association rating, R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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