NEDS – Review

Neds (2010) 

Directed by Peter Mullan. Starring Conor McCarronLinda CuthbertDavid McKayMarianna Palka

I don’t know much about Peter Mullan, but judging by his body of work, he must have had a seriously troubled childhood (to say the least), though he’s been reported saying that the film is “personal but not autobiographical”.

Neds is his third feature as a director, after Orphans (About four siblings who have to cope with the death of their mother) and The Magdalene Sisters (About young women suffering oppression and brutality at the hands of some over-zealous nuns). This one is essentially the story of teenage boy’s coming of age in the Glasgow of the 1970s and his descent from a potentially good boy to a ned

Neds is short for “Non-Educated Delinquents”  in Scotland. The stereotypical view of a ned is a white adolescent of working class background engaging in hooliganism, petty criminality, vandal behaviour, fighting, underage drinking, smoking and general anti-social behaviour

There are obvious comparisons with This is England by Shane Meadows but this time we are in Scotland. Incidentally, some people may find the thick accent in certain scenes a big obstacle. I heard that in some festivals the film was even shown with subtitles.

Right now the film is being pushed for various Awards here in the UK (BAFTAs and so on), so I came in expecting to like it quite a lot… And unfortunately that is always a recipe for disappointment.

NEDS is well shot with its grim look and the art direction seems to be spot on, setting up the 70s without overdoing it. It all looks and feels real.

The score of the film, mainly made up with low drones and moody strings, is pretty bland and forgettable and the incidental was often used in contrast with the pictures, for example Irving Berling’s Cheek to Cheek played under a fight sequence among 2 rival bands: that wasn’t very subtle, nor, to be honest, very original either  (I suppose he probably did it to distance the audience from the brutal violence of the scene, but we’ve seen this device used many many times before).

I’ve been reading few reviews praising Conor McCarron’s performance, but I actually thought he was quite miscast for the part. I didn’t really find him sympathetic, nor likable enough to care about whether he’s kill anyone or not. He seemed to lack that charisma that a lead actor should have.

Also I didn’t find his change from goody-goody to a ned quite unbelievably abrupt; then again, I am not sure whether that was a problem with his performance or with the script itself. On one hand I felt the shift happened to quickly, one the other hand it was obviously telegraphed from the script right from the start.

However I did like all the secondary characters in the film. Apparently the cast was largely  made of untrained people, and they all added extra injection of realism to the grim story.

To be completely honest I found “NEDS” way too long and fairly messy in its episodic structure. I’m also beginning to find the brutal violence of films like these a bit too repetitive and pointless. In a way I felt like I’d seen this film even before I actually saw it for the first time. And although it started off quite promisingly, it then fell quickly into predictable clichés.

There were only few surprises here and there: the ending (with the non-too-subtle metaphor with the lions) and a scene with a crucifix (which I personally found of poor taste)  being the only two worth mentioning and not necessarily in a good way.

Just because a film talks about serious issues in a serious way, it doesn’t necessarily make it a good film. There was very little in NEDS I haven’t seen before and despite some good individual scenes, but on the whole I felt that the film had said everything it had to say after the first 30 minutes, the rest was just pretty gratuitous and the open ending was just a bit disappointing.

I much prefer Peter Mullan‘s first two films, in fact I loved the The Magdalene Sisters, another tough film, for sure, but at least a more original one with more of grip on the story, the style (NEDS was a mish mash of styles) and and actual ending!


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4 Responses to NEDS – Review

  1. Pingback: NEDS – Review (via moviegeekblog) | The Calculable

  2. Mary says:

    I was looking forward to this one… Now I am so sure anymore. I agree with you about everything else, so I fear I might agree about this one too.

  3. Bunlar says:

    I also enjoyed “The Magdalene Sisters”, but I don’t think that it beats “NEDs”. You mention that the change into a Ned was unbelievably abrupt, but the transformation takes years before John finally snaps – the expectations placed on him, his alcoholic father, rejection by the middle class, the totally unfair comparison between him and his brother. It doesn’t happen in 5 minutes. Also, I cannot agree that the hallucination with Christ was “in poor taste”. It could have been handled much worse. I would have been disappointed in Mullan if he had turned the film into a religious or sectarian piece. I will concede that it could have been shorter in length, however that ought never to affect how you view a film. Are “Ben-Hur” & “Lawrence of Arabia” made poorer in quality simply because they are over 3 hours long? No. Again, I can’t agree with you that McCarron was uncharismatic. He did an admirable job for a first-time performer. But, whether the character is sympathetic is an entirely different matter…

    I think that certain elements of the film we have seen before, but every film derives in large parts with what has gone before. The violence is repetitive for a reason. The Neds find it acceptable and it therefore forms part of the subject matter of the film.

    I’m glad that you gave it a relatively favourable review with a 6/10. I don’t agree with you, but this was an excellent read. I’ll enjoy coming back here to read some more of your opinions in future.

    My review of NEDs:

    • moviegeek says:

      Thanks so much for your comment.
      I just wanted to add that I don’t really mind long films (in fact I think I said somewhere on my review for “The Way Back” that I would have liked the film even a bit longer… However this film to me felt like it had run out of things to say after about 40 minutes.
      As far as the Christ sequences, I really thought it wasn’t in keeping with the rest of the film. All of a sudden I felt I was watching something different.
      However as you rightly pointed out, in the end I gave it a 6.0, which means that even though I didn’t quite enjoyed it as I probably should have, I didn’t think it was a complete disaster. It was very well directed and I liked most of of performances in it.

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