REVIEW: The Legend Of Ben Hall

November 23, 2016

Review, Theatrical, This Week 9 Comments

"...an impressive feature bold in its sense of ambition and rich with character-driven intimacy."
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REVIEW: The Legend Of Ben Hall

Erin Free
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Director: Matthew Holmes
Cast:

Jack Martin, Jamie Coffa, William Lee

Distributor: Pinnacle
Released: December 1
Running Time: 134 minutes
Worth: $17.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

…an impressive feature bold in its sense of ambition and rich with character-driven intimacy.

Proving (if any more proof were actually needed) that crowdfunding websites are no longer the singular domain of low budget niche projects (the film started life as an extended short), The Legend Of Ben Hall comes thundering over the cinematic hill in a sweeping, glorious surge worthy of a cash-pumped mainstream epic. It’s an inspiring sight, and while the seams sometimes show via a stilted quality in the acting and writing, this bushranger tale boasts an admirable sense of classicism and an engaging fondness and understanding of its central character. The madness of genre classics like Mad Dog Morgan and The Proposition might be missing, but the concerns of The Legend Of Ben Hall are considerably different: crime here is an act of workmanlike necessity, rather than the result of any feverish need to wreak havoc and rain down chaos.

Anchoring the film is young newcomer, Jack Martin, who cuts a fine figure as Ben Hall, all imposing height, wounded blue eyes, and slow burning charisma. His bushranger is an essentially decent man, avoiding violence and always attempting to complete his take-downs with minimal bloodshed. His principal offsider – Canadian born John “Happy Jack” Gilbert (played with manic but occasionally over the top energy by Jamie Coffa) – however, tends to reach for his irons first, which gets the pair (along with their callow new recruit, John Dunn, sensitively essayed by William Lee) into increasing strife with the law. Infamously plying his trade around NSW towns like Forbes, Bathurst, and Goulburn, Ben Hall’s final stand (okay, does anyone not know what happened to one of our most famous bushrangers? Just in case…spoiler alert!) gives the film an immediate and hotly contemporary edge, showing in no uncertain terms that police over-reaction is certainly not a new phenomenon.

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Though slightly over-long at two-hours-plus, The Legend Of Ben Hall does a fine job of getting inside the head of the eponymous bushranger, playing out like a kangaroo western come psychodrama. Despite the seeming incongruity, it’s a combination that works extremely well, as it did in Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, which would appear to be a major influence here. And while there’s a lack of assurance in some of the performances of the largely young and untried cast (thrown into further relief by the far more polished cameos from seasoned players like Callan McAuliffe, Andy McPhee, and Arthur Angel), The Legend Of Ben Hall always feels solid and well handled, with sophomore writer/director, Matthew Holmes (who debuted in 2007 with the low budget drama, Twin Rivers), proving equally adept with drama and action. He’s an exciting talent (his off-screen passion in getting projects off the ground is equally bracing), and with The Legend Of Ben Hall, he’s mounted an impressive feature bold in its sense of ambition and rich with character-driven intimacy.

Comments

  1. Peter Moore

    Saw it at the World Premiere in Forbes. I think everyone in the 800 strong crowd was like me. Stunned and overwhelmed. I can’t wait to watch it again. It deserves every success.

  2. Darren McKeirnan

    Seen it last week in Wollongong and was so impressed by the sheer scope of it. Beautifully shot, it looked and played as well as any big budget studio film. There was a meet and greet with the director and cast and they were only too happy to have a chat and answer any question we had. They were great people and everyone should get behind them and this brilliant Aussie flick – I wish them all the success in the world

  3. Darryl Redden

    As a descendant of Ben Hall I was suitably impressed by what Matthew Holmes has achieved with this true to history film. The central actors were outstanding and I came away from Griffith Cinema feeling proud of what the team had achieved.

  4. brent hall

    As The GGGrandson of Police officer Const Henry HALL 301 from Binalong along with Hales,King and Bright…They brought to an End Happy Jack Gilbert..Henry is Buried in the Binalong Cemerty Died 1896

  5. Nonyer

    What a piece of student grade crap, horrible script, terrible supporting actors, miserable screenplay…if Ozzies think that this is a great film, it’s an indication of miserable state of Australian films these days.

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