Son of poor Irish immigrants, the 16 year old Ned Kelly (Heath Ledger) is wrongly accused of horse stealing and sent to prison. On his release four years later, Ned vows to avoid further trouble, but trouble doesn’t make the same vow. When a policeman gets too pushy with Ned’s sister Kate (Kerry Condon) in the Kelly shack, there’s a scuffle and Ned and his mother (Kris McQuade) are charged with attempted murder. His mother is jailed but Ned goes on the run and becomes determined to strike back at the brutish and unjust system. The Kelly gang is formed, with his brother Dan (Laurence Kinlan) and two close friends, Steve Hart (Philip Barantini) and Joe Byrne (Orlando Bloom).
 

4
A handsome production that plays true homage to the legend.

Director, Gregor Jordon is reunited with his Two Hands star Heath Ledger in his retelling of the life of legendary Aussie bushranger, Ned Kelly. In Australia in the 1880s, when Irish Catholics were generally despised by the Protestant Establishment, the teenage Ned Kelly, Heath Ledger, is arrested for horse stealing and spends three years in prison. On his release, he returns to the impoverished home of his widowed mother, Ellen, Kris McQuade, and his siblings and gets a job working in the stables of a landowner. But a sleazy cop, Fitzpatrick, Kiri Paramore, lusts after Ned's sister, Kate, Kerry Condon, which results in an escalating series of conflicts which eventually place Ned, his brother, Dan, Laurence Kinlan, and his mates Steve Hart, Philip Barantini and Joe Byrne, Orlando Bloom, outside the law. They are the Kelly Gang.

Gregor Jordan's film is based not on Peter Carey's award-winning True History of the Kelly Gang but on Robert Drewe's Our Sunshine. Jordan and his cinematographer, the British Oliver Stapleton, have opted for a grim, oppressive look: this is not an Australia of beautiful landscapes and blue skies; it's a bleak world of greyness and cold and rain.

The Kelly story unfolds with a stark inevitability; it's a sad story of persecution which leads to violence and death. Heath Ledger is an imposing Ned, especially when fully bearded towards the end, and Orlando Bloom and Joel Edgerton head a very strong supporting cast as his loyal lieutenant and the friend who betrays him respectively. Naomi Watts provides the love interest as the landowner's aristocratic wife who fancies Ned, and, though Watts is lovely in the role, these scenes are the least successful. It's a brooding, handsome production, which doesn't attempt to be very likeable but does, I think, strive to be true to the legend.

 

Watch 'Ned Kelly'

Saturday 4 July, 8:30pm on SBS World Movies

MA15+
Australia, 2003
Genre: Crime, Biography, Action
Language: English
Director: Gregor Jordan
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Naomi Watts, Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Nicholas Bell
What's it about?
Son of poor Irish immigrants, the 16 year old Ned Kelly (Ledger) is wrongly accused of horse stealing and sent to prison. On his release four years later, Ned vows to avoid further trouble, but trouble doesn’t make the same vow. When a policeman gets too pushy with Ned’s sister Kate (Condon) in the Kelly shack, there’s a scuffle and Ned and his mother (Kris McQuade) are charged with attempted murder. His mother is jailed but Ned goes on the run and becomes determined to strike back at the brutish and unjust system. Directed by Gregor Jordan (Two Hands).

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
12 great Japanese films you should watch at SBS On Demand
With family dramas, comedy, manga adaptations, horror, both an Oscar winner and a Palme d'Or winner, the Japanese cinema collection at SBS On Demand has something for every cinephile.
Five faves: Scott Hicks picks what to watch in isolation
Need some help deciding what to watch while you’re stuck at home? We ask Australian directors, whose films are streaming at SBS On Demand, for five movie recommendations.
SBS On Demand brings you top-quality films for Refugee Week
Let's honour the stories of refugees all around the world, in a collection curated by the Immigration Museum.
You'll have the best seat in the house for the 'Sydney Film Festival Selects' collection at SBS On Demand
A free movie collection curated by Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley. Now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Movies Leaving SBS On Demand: June
Don't miss your chance to watch these standout movies and documentaries leaving SBS On Demand this month.