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George MacKay’s Best Moments in True History of the Kelly Gang

True History of the Kelly Gang is a feature film based Peter Carey’s novel of the same name. The film is loosely based on the exploits of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang of dress-wearing affiliates dodging authorities in the mid-19th century. While this is not the first time the story of Ned Kelly has been told, this version has a certain aesthetic to it and is said to be far more gritty and disturbing than most of its predecessors. Thanks to the direction of Justin Kurzel, responsible for films like Macbeth and Snowtown, he brings the darkness to every film he touches.

The film stars Russel Crowe, Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult and George MacKay as an adult Ned Kelly fresh out of prison. George MacKay kick-started his career as a child actor in a live-action version of Peter Pan and, as an adult, is known for his films Wolf, For Those in Peril, Private Peaceful, and received global recognition for his lead role in the Oscar-nominated masterpiece 1917. Here, MacKay takes on a new challenge as Ned Kelly, raised to be a criminal, who knows how to frighten people and maintain control. These are George MacKay’s best moments as Ned Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang.

Related: George MacKay Talks True History of the Kelly Gang and His Hollywood Breakthrough [Exclusive]

6 Opening Scene


The film opens with Kelly writing a letter to his son so that he won’t “view him in an unsavory light” as Kelly swears to tell the whole truth to his son. His narration is heard over a shot of someone riding a horse through a field of dead trees before an overhead shot of a small cabin in those woods can be seen. While Kelly is portrayed as a ruthless man who wouldn’t hesitate to kill those who cross him, it seems that he still has values of his own, as he swears to his son, through the letter, that everything he is telling him is true or may he burn in Hell. While Kelly may have been a crazed criminal, he still valued the truth like most people do. This preserves a bit of humanity in Ned Kelly while watching the film and despite his actions, we still see that he is human beneath it all.


5 Howling in the Forest


george-mackay-howling-true-history-of-the-kelly-gang
Porchlight Films

Probably one of the most iconic and strange scenes in the whole film is the scene in which Kelly gets his people to howl whilst in the middle of a forest. After saying “you’re to be my banshees”, Kelly breaks out into a howl to which his gang begins to join him. This moment shows not only the devotion his people have to him, but the power Kelly gained in the process of building his gang to the point where he was ultimately in control. This moment also adds to MacKay’s performance of Kelly as an unsettling mad-man who is not all there, and howling in the forest is the type of crazy that scares people.

4 Brutal Bare-Knuckle Boxing


While this scene may slip through the cracks a bit, it’s one of MacKay’s best moments as Ned Kelly. The scene begins with a shot of the word ‘“MAN” written in blood on the wall, which then cuts to a shot of the British flag, zooming out to reveal Kelly stretching his back, preparing the audience for what’s to come. Then, it cuts to show Kelly bare-knuckle boxing. As the fight continues, Kelly knocks the man down, but he doesn’t stop there. Kelly pounds on his face over and over, drawing copious amounts of blood until he wins the fight. This scene shows the sheer brutality that Kelly had towards others, showing no mercy to anyone.


3 Kelly Writes About His Life


The most memorable moment from the trailer that gained the attention of many is this quick clip. Kelly decides that he is going to chronicle his life. Covered in soot and wearing a dress, the schoolmaster offers to help him write, saying he has books that could help, to which Kelly responds with the threat of shoving the pen through the man’s eye. After a moment of silence, Kelly speaks up and asks further about the books. This scene goes from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye and George MacKay’s way of threatening the man is so emphatic that even the audience is squirming under his gaze. Kelly maintains control with a single threat which George MacKay portrays perfectly.

Related: Wolf Trailer Has Lily-Rose Depp & George MacKay Acting Like Absolute Animals


2 Making the Armor


george-mackay-armor-true-history-of-the-kelly-gang
Porchlight Films

On top of wearing dresses, another thing the Kelly gang is known for is the armor they wore to protect themselves, earning Ned Kelly the infamous nickname of “Australian Iron Outlaw’.” When the armor is tested and works by deflecting the bullets, Ned celebrates by calling them “bulletproof”. Making armor which successfully protects from bullets seems to solidify Kelly’s belief that he and his gang are untouchable, having evaded the police for many years. The armor portrayed in the film is remarkably accurate to the real armor used by the real Kelly gang, which has been preserved and can be seen in person at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

1 Shootout at Glenrowan


After one of the hostages manages to reveal the gang’s position to police, the Kelly gang is ambushed and faced with another stand-off with police, but this time, they have their armor to protect them. Part of what makes this scene so gruesome is the never-ending barrage of bullets from both sides. George MacKay’s Kelly never wavers once, remaining strong despite the hits he takes as well as the men he loses. In this final stand-off, Ned never gives in and maintains his reputation as a crazy cutthroat criminal as he stands tall in his iron armor. Despite his efforts, the police forces are too strong and severely wound Ned through his armor.


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