Often the word “legend” in a film title can be a fairly good indicator that you’re not in for a breezy frolic, but that still doesn’t prepare you for the ponderously protracted slog that is “The Legend of Ben Hall.”
Chronicling the last five months (feeling like they’re playing out in real time) in the life of the 19th century Australian “bushranger” whose numerous armed exploits placed him on many a Most Wanted poster, the stirringly shot production portrays Hall (Jack Martin) as a soft-spoken dude who’s tiring of life on the lam.
But a chance reunion with former accomplice John “Happy Jack” Gilbert (Jamie Coffa) persuades him to embark on one final string of robberies, allowing them to amass enough cash to finance an escape from the country.
You don’t need to be an expert in Aussie legend and lore to know this isn’t going to end well — writer-director Matthew Holmes is constantly signalling Hall’s impending bullet-riddled demise.
Although the production reflects a visually evident demand for period authenticity, it’s also readily apparent the same high standards didn’t apply to the stilted dialogue and lightweight performances that both needed to ride a lot taller in the saddle.
Martin and Coffa may bear a strong physical resemblance to their real-life counterparts, but their contemporary-sounding line delivery has all the dramatic heft of a Foster’s beer commercial.
‘The Legend of Ben Hall’
Running time: 2 hours, 19 minutes
Playing: Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino