Australia in the 1870s, and Ned Kelly, son of an Irish immigrant family, is victimised by a prejudiced police force. Soon the Kellys have become a gang, on the run from the law and robbing banks to survive.
The endless delays inflicted upon Gregor Jordan's Buffalo Soldiers might yet help the Australian director's third movie, which arrives just two months after his acclaimed anti-military satire.
Although this rather truncated take on the outback outlaw is a lesser work, it's still shot through with enough lyrical touches to confirm Jordan as a talent to watch.
Like Buffalo Soldiers, Ned Kelly takes a dense novel as its source material - in this case, Our Sunshine by Robert Drewe - and applies liberal amounts of voiceover to both stitch together an episodic narrative and provide a flavour of the book. But Kelly was, of course, more than a book, and Jordan - perhaps hamstrung by a limited budget - elides key episodes, hurries others, and singularly fails to elucidate the precise relationships of the Kelly gang.
Where he does score big, however, is on atmosphere and authenticity, and here he's aided by the likeable leads - Ledger and Bloom - who overcome dodgy beards and wobbly accents to put in spirited performances.
A wannabe Western epic that never quite fills the widescreen, but is quite lovely around the fringes. A bit like Australia.