Reckless Kelly is a more entertaining and certainly more intriguing film than most initial reviews made out.
Writer-producer-director-star Yahoo Serious (Young Einstein, 1988) is a curious figure within the Australian film industry – someone who publicly declares his artistic kinship to Charlie Chaplin and other greats of comic cinema, while making movies that are as naïve and primitive as they can possibly be.
Yahoo's movies are pretty crazy on the message level, too. He offers this one as a political parable about Australian republicanism, complete with a pompous dedication to the "irreverent spirit" of Ned Kelly.
Yet, while littering his film with ham-fisted homages to home-grown multiculturalism and the Aboriginal dreaming, he also trumpets the greatness of American show biz – and unambiguously takes a cheap shot at the Japanese.
Like Crocodile Dundee (1986), Reckless Kelly is a film whose main topic is its own place as a cultural product in the international market. As a modern day, entrepreneurial Kelly, Serious travels boldly across the seas and forges the links between our homely bush ethos and the entertainment industries of multinational capitalism. Even the film's half-hearted love interest (involving Melora Hardin as an American environmentalist) takes a back seat to all the earnest huffing and puffing about money, markets and culture.
As a comedy, Reckless Kelly – appearing on video in "the director's final cut" – has pace, spectacle and a commendably infantile level of silliness. But my permanently open jaw as I watched it was less a matter of its style than its bizarre political content. This film is a must for all students of Australian culture.
masterful Yahoo: Mr Accident
© Adrian Martin December 1993