The aspiring illusionist and pony riding Ned Kelly (Abe Forsyth) applies for the job of the fourth gang member with Dan Hughes (Nick Flint), Steve Hart (Damon Herriman) and Joe Byrne (Josef Ber) and they proceed to rob the bank at Glenrowan. Over and over again. They also visit the Glenrowan Slut Palace. The whacky gang – in which Joe is hoping to steal enough money for his sex change operation - is specially targeted by the poncy English Governor Sinclair (Felix Williamson). And the reason is a secret that is even more bizarre than the gang itself. Dan Hughes hides his own secret, one that will shake Ned’s view of himself.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Crammed with irreverent, sometimes sexually inventive undergraduate humour, Ned is one of those silly films that seems to have been conceived as a ‘hey, what if…’ by an energetic comic mind (Abe Forsyth) and stretched to feature length. The concept doesn’t quite stratceh that far, although its wilder aspects are great fun, especially for the target audience (under 25). Forsyth, from the talented comedic Forsyth family, fills the screenplay with ideas that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. Armed with a sense of the ridiculous, he scrambles the Ned Kelly story, inserts wild scenarios and creates new realities for the Australia of the 1880, including a few nicely thrown away touches (like a wanted poster with a web address at the bottom). The helter skelter story line is based on a flashback, told to a young boy by a mysterious and very old man on a bench in the contemporary Glenrowan tourist centre; his identity is hinted at in the final scene. Nothing demanding about Ned, but a crude and farcical production that in years gone by may have become a stage production instead of a movie. But today, everybody wants to make movies.
Review by Louise Keller:
Irreverent, risky and highly inventive, there’s plenty of Ned-foolery in this crazy spoof on the Ned Kelly story. And what a talent we have in Abe Forsyth (son of Drew), who as director, producer, writer and star, has created a wild and naughty imaginary twist on the story of this historic, legendary figure in Australian folklore. Forsythe has taken the tale from the history books and put his own improbable slant on the events, so historical drama is replaced by the odd hysterical drama queen. The idea and the structure work exceedingly well, and while some of the humour falls flat, there is much that is good entertainment. The opening scenes are set in the present day, where a decrepit old man (played by dad Forsythe) recounts the REAL story of young Ned, the son of a rubber plantation owner, whose ambition is to become a famous magician. We then are taken back in time and get to know this young man intent on perfecting his card tricks. It all begins when he answers an advertisement to join a band of bushrangers. Lucky for him, he has a horse (albeit a small pony called Muffy, who is the butt of many jokes), as that is the requirement, and when he joins what is then known as the Hughes Gang, his motive is to raise enough money to buy props for his magic show. But it seems the general public is intrigued by Ned’s ‘miniature horse’ and ‘gold helmet’ (Ned grabs a tin bucket with a letterbox slot as a hat – which also confuses the postman), and much to Dan Hughes’ chagrin, they become known as ‘The Kelly Gang’. There is a fair share of toilet humour, cross-dressing, and characters like the aboriginal tracker who looks suspiciously like a chinaman, the raunchy prostitutes at the Glenrowan Slut Palace and the gerbil-carrying Governor who plays with miniature hand puppets while naked men romp in the background. Get the picture? While the humour may not sustain for the duration, I like the wackiness of it all, the implausible use of music and the film looks terrific. Strong performances by everyone, and watch out for a funny turn by Jason Donovan, and a cameo by Cornelia Frances as the whore house madam. Ned will infuriate the traditionalists, of course, but there is certainly room for this warm-hearted and outrageous farce that offers quite a few hearty guffaws.