Hit-and-miss retelling of legendary outlaw's tale

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Ned Kelly

OPENS SEPTEMBER 26, CERT 15, 109 MINS

The latest of many biopics about 19th-century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly (the 1970 version of the same name starring Mick Jagger being the best known), director Gregor Jordan’s version has moments both majestic and maladroit. On the plus side, Heath Ledger as the taciturn hero carries the film well, while Orlando Bloom provides attractive if one-note support as Kelly’s partner in crime, and Naomi Watts is the cursory love interest. The script economically focuses on the last years of Kelly’s career, from his final breech with the law after his mother’s arrest up to the fatal showdown in Glenrowan, complete with circus animals (a bizarre but accurate detail).

But it’s let down by its over-reverence (it’s far less anarchic than Jordan’s previous Buffalo Soldiers) and occasionally clunking sentimentality. Western fans will detect echoes of The Wild Bunch and The Long Riders, but at its best Ned Kelly offers a very Australian treatment of the most Australian of legends.