Justin Kurzel

Australia, United Kingdom, France , 2019 / 124 min / English OV with French & Dutch subt. / Biopic, crime, drama

Closing Film

A punk-rock take on Ned Kelly, one of Australia’s most iconic outlaws.

In 19th century Australia, Ned Kelly grows up in a rebellious Irish immigrant family who regularly butts head with local police. First trying to stay away from trouble, his life takes an unexpected turn when his mother sells him to Harry Power, an outlaw with little regard for colonial authority who will initiate him to a life of crime. As he grows older, he repeatedly clashes with British colonial forces, each encounter with the law pushing Kelly further into a dedicated life of lawlessness. Soon enough, he gathers a gang around him to help with the horse thieving and shootouts, and many Australian settlers are applauding his exploits against the British. With his wild bunch of warriors, he plots one of the most audacious attacks of anarchy and rebellion the country has ever seen that builds to an epic final showdown.

“A cruel, 'punky' coming-of-age story about a vengeful, troubled rebel that has to end in an unconventional, visually spectacular confrontation. Focusing less on bank robberies and chases, the film concentrates on power relations and the historical elusivity of Ned Kelly the character. Was he an anti-colonial Robin Hood resisting the British oppressor, an anarchist in a dress or simply a violent criminal? These aspects are all examined in the lead performance by George MacKay, constantly on the verge of bursting out of his sinewy body.” International Film Festival Rotterdam

Sun 15/03 19:00 Kinepolis Kirchberg EN OV with FR & NL subt. Public

“The 19th century Australian bushranger at the center of True History of the Kelly Gang is a figure that looms large in the nation's folkloric iconography […] The Robin Hood-like renegade hero of the Antipodean common man, Ned Kelly gets a ripping reinvention in director Justin Kurzel's feverish punk Western, a raw rebel yell of a movie that combines visceral violence with a kind of delirious, scrappy poetry. The brawny film is driven by a performance of bristling intensity, madness and blazing, bedeviled anger that should put George MacKay more firmly on the map […] Those assets, along with the bold visual flourishes, the invigorating use of an unconventional score by the director's brother Jed Kurzel and the thriller's enveloping, almost other-worldly sense of timelessness should supply enough impact internationally to erase the memory of the filmmaker's stumble with Assassin's Creed. […] The result is his best film to date.” David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 06/09/2019

“Justin Kurzel detonates a punk power-chord of defiance and anarchy with this brutally violent and unflinchingly stark tale that unfolds in a scorched, alien-looking landscape. […] Kurzel’s movie draws on the traditional view of Kelly as the Jesse James or Che Guevara of Australia, but subverts the legend by presenting a vivid context of dysfunction and abuse in Kelly’s upbringing: a tragically toxic masculinity and toxic maternity. […] It is a very gruelling spectacle, often brilliant […] always weirdly plausible in its pure strangeness […] The problem of parsing Ned Kelly’s story is at the centre of this film. To watch it, you have to brace for impact.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 13/09/2019

“Adapted from Peter Carey’s Man Booker-winning 2000 novel, Kurzel’s roughhousing, ripely acted interpretation does full justice to the book’s rugged dirt-poetry vernacular and rich biographical particulars, while staging Kelly’s criminal rise and fall as a vision all its own: a wildly gyrating sensory assault of blood, velvet and strobe lights. […] In True History of the Kelly Gang, black lace takes on the strength and solidity of armor, and one of history’s most celebrated outlaws finally gets the film he deserves: one that grants him both macho magnetism and the deep, abiding strangeness on which a lasting cult is built.” Guy Lodge, Variety, 06/10/2019


“An unheroic portrait of a violent, unhinged, colonial punk […] The violence is fierce and shocking with the camera never shying from the spectacle. But in creating such a gloomy miasma, Kurzel offers a truer history to the sanitised and apologetic ways Ned is often lionized as Australia’s great bandit of social justice. […] Kurzel’s Kelly is no sympathetic bandit. Nor is he worthy of compassion or forgiveness. Creating such a hopeless situation presents a deeper understanding of what drove Ned Kelly to his depths of sheer brutality and despair. For that, Kurzel creates the most complex and complicated Kelly ever put on screen.” Stephen Gaunson, The Conversation, January 2020

“Imagine Bonnie and Clyde in the Australian outback — a disturbing glimpse of criminality that provides a subversive taste of its appeal.” Eric Kohn, IndieWire, 06/10/2019

  • Awgie Award for the Best Feature Film – Adaptation, Australian Writers’ Guild, 2019 (Australia)
Cast & Credits
George MacKay, Essie Davis, Russel Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam, Orlando Schwerdt, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Sean Keenan, Earl Cave, Marlon Williams, Louis Hewison
Shaun Grant, based on the book “True History of the Kelly Gang” by Peter Carey
Ari Wegner
Frank Lipson
Karen Murphy
Jed Kurzel
Porchlight Films, Daybreak Pictures, La Cinéfacture
The Searchers

Justin Kurzel was born in 1974 in Gawler, Australia. He studied film directing at the Victorian College of Arts, where he wrote and directed the short film Blue Tongue (2005). His debut feature, Snowtown (2011), praised and acclaimed both by the critics and by the audience, played several festivals and won multiple awards. He went on to direct the features Macbeth (2015), also highly praised by critics and audiences after competing for the Palme d’Or in Cannes, and the video game adaptation Assassin's Creed (2016), both starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. True History of the Kelly Gang (2019) is his fourth feature film.

  • 2019 – True History of the Kelly Gang
  • 2016 – Assassin’s Creed
  • 2015 – Macbeth
  • 2013 – The Turning: Boner McPharlin’s Moll (court-métrage dans une collection / short in a collection / Kurzfilm in einer Sammlung)
  • 2011 – Snowtown
  • 2005 – Blue Tongue (court-métrage / short / Kurzfilm)