Ned Kelly (2003) - Synopsis
Reteaming for the first time since their breakthrough film Two Hands,
director Gregor Jordan and actor Heath Ledger bring moviegoers the true
story of their brave and iconoclastic countryman Irish-Australian
legend Edward Ned Kelly.
In the latter part of the 19th century, Australia is still largely
untamed. The former penal colony’s first-generation Irish immigrant
population lives in poverty. Having already experienced police brutality
and the death of his father, bushranger Ned (Heath Ledger) is wrongfully
imprisoned on the trumped-up charge of stealing a horse.
Emerging a few years later, in 1874, Ned is hardened but vows to stay
straight. Rejoining his widowed mother and younger siblings, he makes
money for his family as a champion bare-knuckle boxer. He also toils as
a farmhand on the estate of an English landowner with whose beautiful
wife Julia (Naomi Watts) Ned shares a mutual attraction.
But the British colonial system and its Victorian English enforcers
remain prejudiced against Australia’s working people, and the struggling
Kelly family is no exception. When, in 1878, a bullying police officer
is rebuffed by Ned’s younger sister Kate and targets the family for
harassment, Ned and his mother are unjustly charged with attempted
Ned is determined to avenge his family’s name and strike back against
his people’s oppressors. While hiding in the bush, he forms a loyal Gang
that includes his best friend and first lieutenant Joe Byrne (Orlando
Bloom). A chance encounter with the police culminates in shots ringing
out, and three officers are killed. The Kelly Gang is forced to go on
the run. They blaze a trail through the Outback, robbing banks to fund
themselves as well as to recover immigrants’ land deeds, and giving
police the runaround. The Kelly Gang’s reputation as invincible outlaws
grows, as does nationwide support from their immigrant countrymen.
To the masses, Ned is a hero. To lawmen and the establishment, he is the
most wanted man in Australia. £8,000 is offered for his capture at the
time, the highest reward the world had known. When the authorities bring
in the formidable Superintendent Francis Hare (Geoffrey Rush), and an
army of police, with carte blanche to capture and/or kill the outlaws,
Ned strategizes a risky showdown at the Glenrowan Inn. It is this event
which will seal his fate and his legend.