After two years on the road, bushranger Ben Hall considers surrendering to the law when his old friend John Gilbert entices him back into the game. Taking on a fresh recruit John Dunn, the gang ride again, before long becoming the most wanted men in the British Empire. When they are declared outlaw, the three decide to flee the colony forever. As Ben Hall seeks to make peace with his tortured past, the their trusted friend becomes a police informant. They set a cunning trap for the outlaws, and on the cold morning of May 5th 1865, Ben Hall emerges alone from his camp... and walks into legend forever.Written by
Director Matthew Holmes spent seven years researching Ben Hall's history to ensure the screenplay, characters and plot were as historically accurate as possible. See more »
Early in the film, Happy Jack uses the word 'moxie'. This word came into common American parlance in the 1930s and was derived from the beverage of the same name; The Legend of Ben Hall is set in 1860s Australia. See more »
Drawings of the major characters (and the name of the actor portraying them) are shown before the main credits. See more »
When we think of Australian bushrangers it's highly likely that the first name that springs to mind is Ned Kelly.
The armour wearing Irish outlaw that to this day remains one of Australia's most well-known figures has had his fair share of the spotlight when it comes to feature films, documentaries and countless other iterations, so it's about time we are treated to another bushranger fuelled local production and up and coming director Matthew Holmes is here to answer our call.
Based on the true story and inspired by Holmes work on the short film The Last Days of Ben Hall, The Legend of Ben Hall sees us transported to the dangerous and violent lands of a burgeoning Australia in the 1860's were wanted bush bandit Ben Hall and his various band of fellow trouble makers are hunted through the thick surrounds of the bush as they try and secure themselves fortune by various robberies, hold-ups and other dastardly deeds.
I for one must admit to not knowing about Ben Hall and his tribulations as an outlaw of the local lands but Holmes captures the time and place in our history fantastically to give us a first-hand insight into the later life of this everyday man turned hunted criminal.
The film looks great, filmed with a steady hand and a keen eye; there really aren't many local productions that feel this polished. From gun fights, hand to hand brawls, through to simply capturing the rugged natural wilds of a yet to be civilised Australia, Holmes and his production team have nailed the setting completely but Legend's failure to connect us emotionally to Hall, some disappointing acting and a runtime that needed some extra trimming all hold the film back from becoming the truly great experience it could've been.
While he certainly looks the part, in the lead role of Hall, actor Jack Martin struggles to convey the necessary range we needed to invest ourselves into Hall as our central figure and he remains a somewhat mysterious figure throughout, as we're never shown his early beginnings or real reasoning behind becoming the figure he became and while the man never took a life as far as we know, it doesn't exactly make him a likable persona.
The other notable downfall of this otherwise cut-above local production is the supporting turn of Jamie Coffa as Hall's outlaw sidekick John Gilbert. Coffa's turn is at times nigh on unbearable as his Gilbert cackles and crazies his way through various scenarios and it feels like a turn dialled up to 11, when it needed to be dialled quite a ways back and while it's nice when actors try and liven up dramatic proceedings, Coffa's turn feels way out of place here.
The Legend of Ben Hall shines a light on a little known piece of Australian history and showcases Holmes often impressive skill as a director, that should make local and international audiences excited for his next outing, the horror tinged Territorial, that hopefully will be finding its way into cinemas sometime in the near future.
Not always on the mark and frustrating in some of its execution, particularly within its performances, The Legend of Ben Hall is however a finely put together independent local production that deserves a larger audience on home video formats than it was afforded in a brief cinematic run towards the end of last year.
3 trigger happy officers of the law out of 5
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