The perspective of a criminal mind can be the product of many stages. The texture of upbringing and formative experiences key into these factors but the idea rests within the situations that befall a character. in “True History Of The Kelly Gang” which has had its perception integrated before in the aspect of “Ned Kelly” starring Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom some years ago, the texture here plays more into the idealism of the boy versus the expectation of a man The building of the man is formative and the imbalance of class struggles and the efforts of a normal children are sowed from birth. Ned’s mother is surviving herself and Ned admires her tenacity even when she herself uses him in a way for her survival. In these earlier times, the impressionable intensity of two characters played by Charlie Hunnan and Russell Crowe show two different sides of the life being led (especially in the 1870s when women had very little choice). Both these men offer their friendship to Ned but truly just as a pathway to his mother.
The eventual coming of age of the boy is quite intensely done in on e scene which imbalances Ned’s whole perception of his life. This s the most telling and best acted scene because it provides that intensity with Crowe, though overweight, showing his acting prowess. As the story progresses to Ned’s formative years, his mother’s influence but also his naivete paint an interesting picture of a boy wanting the idea of what a man is rather retroactively. He falls in love with the wrong girl who, as his friend who turns to be his enemy says, “is not the marrying type”. Most of the men and the women, in more practical fashion in the film, are only out for themselves and their interrelations are messy. This is more than adequately purveyed with the relationship between the Constable and Ned being the most telling.
George McKay plays the older Ned and it is a completely different person by far than he was in “1917”. This movie, as it was filmed, was made it seems a year or so prior to “1917”. Nicolas Hoult pays a slimy character but no more so than anyone else. The flash point, in trying to protect his sibling is what causes the decent into criminality because he seems to have no choice in the defense of his mother. Granted the idea is that he learned this from Crowe. Kelly’s actual decent into crime and madness is not really adequately defined in him. His life becomes broken on but literally in most points he is leading an army of would-be children. The final solution of his idealism shrouded in an ironclad mask works as an interesting low budget approach to a set piece but muddles the metaphors a little bit.
Granted this is more straightforward than the director Justin Kuzel’s “MacBeth” but less cinematic. The acting is good, organic and not stilted but the problem is within the script which operates tightly with a build n the beginning but seems to meander in its meaning a little too much as it personifies its ending with an author taking credit for understanding Ned in the guise of politics. While it is played for irony, the through line of Ned’s letters own letters have more power. It would have made more sense almost to break the 4th wall with McKay as Kelly telling his story from beyond the grave. Ned only did what he did for his family. It simply gt away from him and he lost control of both himself and his world..
By Tim Wassberg
The accessibility of a remake always depends on the people making it and the necessary ramifications for such a pursuit. The ideal behind “Papillon” which was previous made as a movie in the 1970s starring Steve McQueen & Dustin Hoffman is one of showcase. Most younger generations wouldn’t have had a perception of such a story, especially one that begins in the 1930s. But like most great stories worth telling, the essence borders in the mythic. Charlie Hunnam portrays Papillon. Hunnam definitely has an eye for unusual material with literical overtones which might not necessarily give breathe to his marquee value but definitely marks him differently. He turned down “Fifty Shades Of Grey” right before he was to shoot it. While “King Arthur” didn’t succeed, “The Lost City Of Z” was an interesting choice. The challenge is obvious within “Papillon” for him but like “ A Prayer Before Dawn” from A24 earlier this year, the power of the story might not have been enough to connect with audiences. The aspect of Rami Malek, who now has reached a mainstream perception with his lead role as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”, playing Louis Dega nicely complements Hunnam’s Papillon much like Hoffman to McQueen. Malek brings a quite reserve and nervousness to Dega which again shows his dynamic range as compared to say his work on “Mr. Robot”. The locations are interestingly vague yet specific. It starts out in Paris in the 1930s, all shot on soundstage. Most of the actual prison and interiors seems to be have been shot in Serbia. There is an old world dirtiness to the proceedings while including a sense of history. The essence of Malta is definitely felt in Devil’s Island (who many may recognize from the ending of 1980’s “Popeye”) The themes of escape and abandonment versus a sense of belonging resonate throughout the film. The film does get a bit esoteric during Papillon’s isolation time which is a creative choice but unbalances the progression. In terms of extras, there are a nice selection of deleted scenes though only two specifically give a specific enhancement to the film in terms of detail: one being the escaping band of criminals negotiating with a village of lepers and the other being Louis finding a sense of piece in gardening and caring for animals. Both scenes show a sense of gentleness both in Papi and Louis that maybe gets lost at times in the savagery of the prison. “Papillon” didn’t necessarily need to be made but those involve definitely show their passion in these continuing stories that need to be told.
By Tim Wassberg