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Film / True History of the Kelly Gang

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"Don't leave your story for the English to tell, they'll only fuck it up and steal the proceeds."

True History of the Kelly Gang is Justin Kurzel's 2019 biographical western film adaptation of Peter Carey's seminal 2000 novel of the same name. It stars George MacKay (as a young man) and newcomer Orlando Schwerdt (as a boy) in the title role, along with (Kurzel's wife) Essie Davis as Ned's mother Ellen, Nicholas Hoult as the antagonistic Constable Alex Fitzpatrick, Thomasin McKenzie as Ned's love interest Mary Hearn, Sean Keenan as Ned's lieutenant and best friend Joe Byrne, Earl Cave (son of musician Nick Cave) as Ned's brother Dan, Louis Hewison as Kelly Gang member Steve Hart, Charlie Hunnam as Sergeant O'Neill, and Russell Crowe as Ned's bushranger mentor Harry Power.It premiered on 11 September, 2019, at the Toronto International Film Festival and was released in Australian cinemas on 9 January, 2020, before being released as an 'Original' film on Australian streaming service Stan. It is set to be released in UK cinemas on 28 February, 2020, by Picturehouse Entertainment and in US cinemas on 24 April, 2020 by IFC.


  • Abusive Parents: Red Kelly is a deadbeat and Ellen Quinn Kelly is toxic and dominating.
  • Adaptation Distillation: A number of incidents from the novel are cut.
  • Adapted Out: A number of characters and incidents, most notably Aaron Sherritt, Superintendent Hare, and Wild Wright.
  • Alternate History: Downplayed Trope, but several key elements are deliberately changed and a fictional
  • Ambiguously Bi/Ambiguously Gay: As noted by many reviewers, Ned is seen dedicating much more physical affection to other members of the gang than to his baby mama Mary, and kisses Thomas Curnow before the Glenrowan standoff. Fitzpatrick also speculates at one point to Ned whether Dan and Steve have sexual intercourse in their dresses; ironically Fitzpatrick and Ned share a lot of sexual tension.
  • Armor Is Useless: Famously averted, as the Kelly Gang's trademark suits of armour protect them from the coppers' bullets and make them famous.
  • Composite Character: O'Neill in the film takes the role of several different characters in the novel, including Ellen's second husband Bill Frost.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Invoked by the Kelly Gang (and the Sons of Sieve before them), who wear dresses in this film, due to Dan Kelly's reasoning in the above Arc Words; not quite Truth in Television (as the Sons of Sieve were an invention of the novel's entirely), but this is based on Kelly Gang member Steve Hart's reported real-life crossdressing.
  • Death by Adaptation: Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick is shot dead by Ned at point-blank range in both the book and the film, while in real life he lived until 1924.
  • Death of a Child: Jack Jones is killed by a stray bullet at Glenrowan, as in real life.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Ned Kelly myth in general, as mentioned above, particularly the masculinity behind its contemporary view in the public eye.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Dan dies in Steve's arms at Glenrowan.
  • Disappeared Dad: Red Kelly disappears after his arrest before dying.
  • Evil Brit: Nicholas Hoult employs a light Hugh Grant impression to portray Fitzpatrick as this.
  • Evil Matriarch: Not evil, per se, but Ellen's maternity is portrayed as a very toxic influence on Ned.