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Certificate - 18
Run Time - 2 hours
Country - Scottish
Genre - Black comedy
Scottish First Minster Alex Salmond may well need a vote on Scottish independence down the line to secure his political career but I'm pretty sure he doesn't actually want the vote as he knows he will lose it and so have to go. He knows deep down that independence is a very bad idea and wouldn't work as they need English tax revenue to subside the high levels of booze soaked welfare dependency and his somewhat lavish smorgasbord of free everything to encourage his SNP vote, Glasgow now the sickliest and most welfare dependent city in old Europe. Its also home of the acronym Ned's, the so-called 'Non Educated Delinquents', or 'CHAV's' as we know them down south, the type of wasted youth that are dragging Scotland down and the subject of this rather entertaining yet dark and brooding Scottish comedy by actor, writer, director and producer Peter Mullan, a man who is no stranger to the wrong side of the Glasgow street in his younger days.
Although Mullan has said his movie is not particularly about his life growing up in Glasgow, describing it as 'more personal than autobiographical', he contradicts that somewhat in later interviews as he owns up to the fact that many of the things in the movie happened in his schooldays, a therapeutic movie if nothing else, playing the role of the father of the main protagonist in the movie all you need to know on what this movie means to him and what he wants to project.
Mullan is quite a colourful character too; his rough Scottish brogue tempered by hard drinking and womanising from days of old from one too many nips of a fine Scottish Malt, his chequered back-story featuring heavily in his three movies so far. I suppose he sees himself as the representative of those who don't have a voice in Scotland's toughest ghettos and wants to tell their stories, a confirmed Marxist and very much a man of the people.
He was dragged up by the scruff of the neck on a very rough Glasgow sink estate by his alcoholic father and timid mother and confesses 'he ran with a gang who carried knives', although described himself as a mere 'tourist' in that scene, apparently kicked out for reading 'Carl Jung', not the choice literature of the razor gangs of Glasgow's notorious Moss Park estate in the 1970s. Mullan would get his act together just in time at high school and would win a place at Glasgow University, his old man dyeing of lung cancer the day after the acceptance letter fell through the mailbox, passing with the knowledge that his lad had got out of the ghetto, a great achievement for a working-class Glaswegian, even today, what he tried to get across in this involving, nostalgic and strangely poignant movie.
Conor McCarron ... John McGill
Peter Mullan ... Mr. McGill
Greg Forrest ... John McGill - aged 10
Joe Szula ... Benny McGill
John Joe Hay ... Fergie
Gary Lewis ... Mr. Russell
Mhairi Anderson ... Elizabeth
Richard Mack ... Gerr
Gary Milligan ... Canta
Christopher Wallace ... Wee T
Its young John McGill (Greg Forrest) first day at school, the 10-year-old soon bullied
by the school hard-case, Gerr (Richard Mack), dreading the rest of term. Life is just as bad at home, his alcoholic dad (Peter Mullan) just as abusive and in his face, his mother (Mhairi Anderson) in a loveless marriage and there only for the kids and weekly wage. But wee John is not about to have his school days ruined by a bully, calling on his big brother, the feared 'Benny' McGill (Joe Szula), who, when informed of the intimidation, batters the lad in front of his little brother that warns Gerr off for good.
John is placed in a remedial form class because of his brother's bad reputation. But he is clearly a smart lad and soon works his way in to the top form by being the class swot, determined to be a journalist.
Six years on and he is all grown up and pondering that place in university as end of school exams approach. But the barriers to escaping the ghetto are racing towards him, however smart he is or the willingness to dodge them he has. The first, of course, as any working-class kid will tell you is that of social class. When his middle-class friend's parents forbid their son to mix with him because of his postcode it's the spark to send him off the rails. He doesn't feel he belongs in a posh town called aspiration. The second is his big brother Benny. The boys instantly respect John once they know the name McGill, more than they do that he is smart, and so inevitably his schoolwork starts to slip and he begins to get a buzz from hanging with a gang, leader 'Fergie' (John Joe Hay) all too keen to have a McGill on the team.
School work begins to bore him and he is soon in detention and answering back teacher, fags smoked brazenly and the flash of steel in the toilets drawing blood. By now his brother has left school and in trouble with the police and his father even more abusive and drinking harder, mum unaware little McGill is throwing it all away. The question now is does he take the easier path of that of his brothers or chose the one he was on that will lead him away from his eventual factory job and just repeat his dads current numbness...
Ned's is a film of two halves, one good and one not so good. It starts off funny and engaging as we get to grips with the broad Glaswegian burr and Grange Hill playground angst and antics, subtitles seriously needed for those renters south of the border. But Gregory's Girl becomes Clockwork Orange as the director tries to cram in one too many homage's to his directing heroes of old, the attitude from Mullan very much it's his kitchen and he is the chef and so he will put in the broth what he likes, bones, guts, pig ears and all! The director needed an independent eye on the edit the way George Lucas always needs to avoid clutter although you sense there was no chance of any interference with the independent minded Scot in the cutting room alone. It's too long and violent towards the second hour and doesn't know when to tie things up, at least three endings here. But Mullan clearly has 'issues' from his childhood and wanted to get them off his chest and so in it all went.
The film can be tough one minute, brutally funny the next; tender, then take off into surreal lunacy. The last twenty minutes are just so out of context you want to scream, maybe written one late red-eyed Sunday night after one too many Famous Grouse. With familiar school themes of corporal punishment, social class barriers and your first Glasgow kiss behind the bike sheds there are real pangs of nostalgia here, a film we can all relate too, especially for our middle-aged readers from north of the border, the Bay City Rollers the soundtrack to our lives.
With that very seventies soundtrack and impressive acting performances this is great fun for the first hour, extra authenticity coming from the actors and locations here, many of the lads and lasses cast having not acted before and invited to open auditions, kids from the same rough estates, who thought the whole thing 'was a wee bit sissy', no doubt, but many going along in the end because there were pretty girls there.
Although there are schoolboy themes here this is grown up stuff and not family viewing. There is a message here of sorts of the moronic nature of getting involved in gangs that are of likewise men who tend to fight over nothing, working-class males having to somehow justify their machismo through violence. As a kid in the Midlands our big rucks were inter-school rivalry where the hardcase and hangers on would all meet on the playing fields after the final bell to do battle with rival schools, but nothing ever happening as only about five lads from the other school would show up and just flick Vs and shout obscenities from 500 yards away. I can't give NEDs four stars but I can recommend it.
The Scotsman - "A dark, evocative, hard-hitting piece of film-making leavened by flashes of sly wit, a great eye for period detail and a sound ear for authentic dialogue".
Daily Mirror - "A slathering, rabid beast of a movie, Neds is a hellish trip through 70s Glasgow as seen through the eyes of a teenage ne'er-do-well"
The Melbourne Age - "Despite its bold efforts to the contrary, it ultimately becomes a dehumanizing experience and apology for self-ruination
Time Out - "It's a personal, affecting and pleasingly unusual film, a little too long perhaps and unwieldy in its final stages, but never less than shocking, powerful and utterly relevant".
Imdb.com - 7.9/10 (2,772 votes)
Rottentomatos.com - 94% critics approval rating
- - - - - Extras - - - - - -
Quite a few, as you would expect.
-Peter Mullan Master class-
The old dog talks about his film to an audience and its enjoyable stuff. Here he references all those famous directors that mess up the second half of the movie, Peckanpah, Kubrick and Altman to name but three...
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