Everyone loves an outlaw. There’s a certain romanticism attached to those who rebel against society and dare to live free from its shackles – although of course you have to overlook the whole robbing and murdering thing that’s a part of it. The Wild West in the US saw outlaws like Jesse James and Billy the Kid capture popular imagination as they stuck it to the man, while down under in Australia there’s the legend of Ned Kelly.
Ned Kelly was born in the British colony of Victoria in 1854, as part of a dirt-poor Irish family and whose father had been sent to the colony as a transported convict. He was in and out of trouble with the law from an early age, however his notorious run as the leader of the Kelly Gang began in 1878 after a violent confrontation with a policeman at his home saw him charged with attempted murder. After his mother has imprisoned as an accomplice to the crime Ned Kelly, his younger brother Dan, and two others killed three policemen in retaliation, which saw them officially declared outlaws.
For the next two years, the Kelly Gang went on a deadly crime spree, including attacking a number of towns, all the while denouncing the British government and law enforcement. His famous last stand came in 1880, when they tried to ambush a police train while clad in home-made, bullet-proof armour. It wasn’t, and a wounded Ned Kelly was the only survivor of the encounter. He was tried and convicted for his crimes, despite thousands demanding that he be pardoned, and was hanged on 11 November 1880.
True History of the Kelly Gang is the upcoming movie that, well, isn’t the true history of the Kelly Gang – it’s a fictionalised account of the infamous outlaw’s life that’s based on Peter Carey’s award-winning novel of the same name published in 2000 and directed by Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders, Macbeth). It stars George MacKay and Orlando Schwerdt as the older and younger Ned Kelly respectively, as well as Essie Davis, Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam, and Earl Cave.
The official plot synopsis is as follows:
Inspired by Peter Carey’s Man Booker prize winning novel, Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang shatters the mythology of the notorious icon to reveal the essence behind the life of Ned Kelly and force a country to stare back into the ashes of its brutal past. Spanning the younger years of Ned’s life to the time leading up to his death, the film explores the blurred boundaries between what is bad and what is good, and the motivations for the demise of its hero. Youth and tragedy collide in the Kelly Gang, and at the beating heart of this tale is the fractured and powerful love story between a mother and a son.
Let’s take a look:
This isn’t your standard based-on-a-true-story movie, this is a psychedelic trip down the rabbit hole into the psyche of a man who’d violate all the established rules of the “civilised world”. As such it looks like a fantastic watch – bright, colourful, well-acted, and horrific.
I’m also guessing it’s no coincidence that the metal helmets they’re wearing look remarkably like those worn by the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. What do you think?
True History of the Kelly Gang is due for release in the UK on 28 February 2020.
Last Updated: November 29, 2019