Tony Richardson’s 1970 take on the tale of Australias’ most notorious folk anti/hero and Mick Jagger’s part in it were critically panned on release, not entirely without justification – although to be fair, the most vociferous and influential of the negative voices were Australians narked at the usurpation of a cultural myth by two pommie nonces (mate).
In the intervening years, more balanced appraisal has acknowledged that while Mick’s somewhat stylized and androgynous portrayal of the title character is not always in keeping with public perception and expectation of the tough outlaw, his performance is considered and not without merit. He never dominates the screen, but the magnetism that has enabled him to front up live gigs in front of tens of millions over the years, although somewhat subdued, is still perceptible.
The movie is as well-made as you would expect of an Oscar-winning director, and the much-maligned Waylon Jennings soundtrack not as woeful as some reviews might have you believe.
Mick didn’t like the film himself, but there’s nothing new about that – he’s been as scathing about some of his finest records too. It’s no classic but Ned Kelly has its place in pop culture history for reasons beyond mere curiosity, and is well worth the watch for all movie fans as well as Jagger groupies.