Neo Ned (2005)
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But back to the film, let's start with the end, it actually brought an emotional tear to my eye and although at least part of the ending is predictable I found the other part of the ending a nice surprise. Both lead were great, the guys who plays Ned was awesome, great character, great acting. It must be had to act as someone who is supposed to be acting a part, and still let the true inside person shine through. Ms. Union's part was more subdued, but just as well played; she was a Martin to his Lewis, giving the viewers a person who was easier to relate to.
A fine film! I hope it gets the release it dissevers.
One last note. One guy in the audience was "disturbed" by the use of race in the film, he thought it was treated too lightly, but I feel race in this film was more like window dressing; it was a means to an end. This film is not about a white neo Nazi and an emotionally disturbed black woman (well I guess it is on the surface); it's really about two dysfunctional people who try to help each other like GARDEN STATE. But Neo Ned works better than Garden State and has almost as good a soundtrack.
Both Jeremy Renner and Gabrielle Union do a phenomenal job with their characters. Renner's portrayal of Ned is almost childlike as he yearns for attention- weather it's positive or negative. You can't help but to fall in love with Ned and Rachel and after a while you find yourself routing for them.
Overall I think this is an amazing film and I think that everyone should take the time to watch it! I love this movie more and more every time I see it!
The performance of Jeremy Renner in this movie is incredible, bringing an innocent charm to a very misguided neo-nazi called Ned. Even when he's spouting racial epithets towards Rachael (Gabrielle Union in a terrific part) early in the film it comes through in the performance that he's interested in her rather than hateful towards her, but just doesn't know how else he should behave. It's a difficult thing to describe, and deserves to be seen. Gabrielle Union is particularly good in some of these early scenes.
There are some incredibly funny moments in the movie with a number of them purely visual plays on the happy couple walking around together. One of my favourite comedic scenes takes place in the hospital where Ned tells Rachael about what he'd like to do once the great racial war has split America into quadrants. It's in moments like these where you really see Ned for what he is - lonely, and desperate for human connections.
While the ending of the movie may be no great surprise, the final scene with Ned is an uplifting and touching moment of comic genius.
Seeing this at the Edinburgh Film Festival we were lucky enough to see a Q&A with the Director Van Fischer, Jeremy Renner, and one of the producers, Mark Borman. The movie does not have a distribution deal yet, and Mark Borman believes most of that is that distributors aren't sure how to market the movie. It's an understandably difficult sell, but one I hope some brave distributor will run with.
I look forward to the release on DVD.
Jeremy Renner is an up-and-coming new character actor with definite acting chops who, this past year, made an indelible impression on me in two disparate roles, as a sexual harassing co-worker to Charlize Theron in the drama "North Country" and as a former fire-fighter coming to grips with depression in the indie "Twelve and Holding", both excellent work by the talented thespian, who shines here in this little seen indie as the metaphorically titular character (the Neo- referring to his skinhead Nazi tendencies and eventually for his re-birth at a mental health clinic) Ned, who has had a rough life. His real mother, a flibbertigibbet flake (Kirkland), lost him to the tragic life of foster care (he barely escaped a family's mass suicide) while his father is in prison, he wound up befriended by peer-pressuring thugs in the unlikely form of a skinhead gang that eventually leads to the murder of a young black man. Although not implicit for the death Ned is sent instead of jail to the clinic where he meets a beautiful young black woman named Rachael (Union, in one of her surprisingly stronger efforts and also another talent to continue to watch), who has everyone there under the impression she is the re-incarnation of Adolph Hitler (!)
Tentatively feeling each other out and realizing that both are completely at unease with their guises, the two begin to bond and fall in love until Ned is unceremoniously dismissed from the premises (no one sees any progress and he has been a nuisance to the staff and patients). Instead of taking his one-way ticket on a bus to nowhere, Ned instead returns to the clinic and follows the patients to their scheduled field trip at the local zoo, where he sees Rachael and lies to her that he is 'cured' and persuades her to join him in a new life. But Rachael is also not who she appears (a victim of a sexual abuser while a young girl) and the happy life the two design for themselves doesn't turn out to be what they anticipated.
The film, directed by novice Van Fischer moves along predictably - kind of like a made-for-TV mix of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" meets "Badlands" but without the rampant wave of violence for violence sake, with some subtle touches (i.e. Ned's fading swastika on his t-shirt suggesting his tendencies are all but non-existent), but the screenplay by Tim Boughn feels bare-bones where rich character development and a better transition from scene-to-scene could've been forged more thoroughly.
But the acting is uniformly solid, including cameo-esquire work by Elwes and Kirkland.
I was fascinated and impressed with both Renner and Union, as they both had tragic histories and longed for something happy.. Awesome, awesome, awesome... if you can handle it. This movie is definitely for people who don't mind a bittersweet story. Beautifully acted and directed.
I won't repeat everything said re: excellent performances (all true) and gripping, intelligent script (also true). A special kudo should also go to Fischer, who managed to just stand back and let the story do its thing without getting in the way. It seems very hard for many directors to trust their actors and writer, but that's just what Fischer has done.
What struck me most about Ned - our anti-hero - is what Renner managed to etch into his face - his aching need to belong. He's like a little lapdog throughout, trying to please anyone who can get past his bravado: clinging to his favorite 'goon' orderly when released at a bus station, kissing Rachel when she translates his racist rhetoric as mutual attraction, and replaying his mother's favorite video because it makes her happy - even though it's of her exploiting his pain on a national talk show. Though written very effectively as a comedy, Neo Ned looks at the tragic lengths a person will travel in order to be part of a family - any family. Ned tries to find this in the Aryan Brotherhood, but they reject him because he's not hateful enough. He finally achieves his goal by reuniting with his dad - in prison. Not a happy ending for most people, but it's only when incarcerated that Ned finally feels like most people - loved.
I would disagree with the Scottish comment that retribution is the driving goal behind Rachel's final crime (Union's character). Ned wants to help her overcome her fear of the abuser so she can move on, but when she won't go inside the man's office with Ned, he takes second-best - i.e. beating the guy. When Rachel does appear, she's simply shaking, terrified that her childhood molester is moving toward her. She's brought Ned's gun because of her panic, not her premeditated eye-for-an-eye mentality. Bloodthirsty American I may be, but I certainly didn't condone her crime. I don't think the writer Tim Boughn asks us to. Far from supporting a get-off free vigilante attitude, Boughn throws his main character in jail for twenty years. The fact that this perhaps seems like a character success proves how swept up into Ned's value system we are (in his childlike moral code, the 'good guys' have won). And no, European countries may not have the legacy of slavery we have here (since they saved it for their colonies), but they certainly have prejudices and histories of their own which should resonate with audiences (and plenty of current race relation problems they may be choosing to ignore).
Finally, a word about realism. Van Fischer said in his Q&A that this film definitely requires a suspension of disbelief, and he's right. I can't think of a black woman I know who would date a self-proclaimed Neo-Nazi, but I know plenty of women of all backgrounds who love their man precisely because they see through his game. Rachel knows from the beginning that Ned is full of it, that he's playing the race card because he can't think of anything better to provoke people. And how different is that from a crowing Romeo who really just wants to be cuddled? The masks might change, but the right partner sees through them all the same.
The director was at the event and he spoke of how they need to establish their audience so that distributors will attach themselves to the project. Definitely go see this film and become a part of the ever growing fan base. He mentioned that every time they screen the film, they get great responses. But those good responses don't mean for the filmmaker much unless they lead to distribution deals. Please support these guys. They make great movies.
But we quickly discover that Ned -the "Neo Nazi" - is really just a very simple and childlike person with a great need to be part of a group.
They did a good job of making the main characters multidimensional and "likeable".
There seem to be a few technical glitches in the first five minutes of the film, and there is also a small 10/15 minute lull in the middle of the piece - but a small price to pay for a solid film.
Overall, I thought the writing, acting and directing were great.
We suspect early on that neither character is quite as clear-cut as they seem. When not spouting defiance in German, Rachael is mild mannered and almost like an insightful social worker to Ned, who has a tantrum when he can't get sugar on his toast (but explains that he has to 'keep up his reputation' as a psycho). In one of his milder moments, Ned says to Rachael, "Just cos I'm a racist doesn't mean I'm not sensitive." When he makes a Nazi-style collage for her, she tears off and keeps only the corner where he has written, "To Rachel, from your friend Ned." The oddball element of the characters provides some of the charm as well as much unsettling humour. Ned's mother, who has appeared on six Jerry Springer -type chat shows to eulogise her 'misunderstood son' is at first shocked at his liaison with a black woman but then she sees the potential and gets on the phone to TV producers the minute the happy couple leave. "Every mother should love their child, no matter what," she proclaims, with well-rehearsed, realistic tears. The phrase has hidden irony when we learn later about Rachael's childhood.
Neo Ned is a clever concept and delivered with varying degrees of success. It will have aficionados while boring the pants off others. Ned's gritty antics will thrill some as harmless escapist entertainment, not to be taken seriously and definitely not emulated. The script has an ingenious overall pattern but sags in many parts as it slowly builds up the pieces of a jigsaw. If you are offended by bad language, it's one to avoid, but otherwise it does contain a few gems such as, when trying with his limited vocabulary to backtrack after a night of playing away, Ned exclaims, "I wish to God I could take that back - I wish I could unf*ck her!" Although much of the pacing struck me as slow, this is really a film that lulls you into to thinking one thing so it can hit you between the eyes with something else. As a romantic comedy, I didn't find it very believable, although I admit I warmed to it as we found out more about Ned's character. This is quite intentional, as the film is a journey of self-discovery and finding there is more to a person than is immediately apparent. On a second level, it examines racism, and although it is a fairly intelligent insight, I didn't feel it added anything new. Finally (in the last scenes) it hits us with an eye-for-an-eye retributive philosophy, which some people may find worrying and others agree with (and the audience is encouraged to agree). It struck me that the film has done well on the U.S. festival circuit and I will be curious to see if fares as well in the UK or Europe - where our penal system is less retributive - we generally don't believe in killing people whether as capital punishment or otherwise. Racial tensions outside of the U.S. tend to follow very different patterns and I wonder if audiences will relate to it as well in countries that have had little history of Klu Klux Klan or extremist movements that, strangely enough, also echo certain aspect of Nazi intolerance.
Neo Ned is not one of my favourite films. I disliked its treatment of violence and I lost interest several times in the first half. But it is one that people will have strong opinions about, for and against, so you might want to watch it and disagree with me.
I just wanted to add my two cents in that this film should be distributed, if not to the theaters than at least on DVD. I'm just sick and tired of the big budget movies getting all of the play when the movies with true substance have to scratch and claw for years just to get some notice.
So add my vote to the please distribute this film list.
The movie itself is quite remarkable, painting a picture of a unique relationship without falling into any plot shattering clichés. Both lead characters Ned and Racheal (Gabrielle Union) provide stories that are both complex and heart breaking. The movie does rely on the viewer to figure out the main character Ned, which is far from a problem. Renner plays the part with such a strong conviction that the audience is left feeling what his character does, and not once does he make the character feel unrealistic or synthetic.
As far as Unions role goes, she has no problem following her male college. She proves she is more that capable of playing deep interesting roles, and that her talents go way beyond her repetition. The movie might not be perfect; from a personal point of view the soundtrack may be a bit of and does not complete the vibe in the movie. But all those little things is forgotten thanks to such brilliant acting and a well written and heart-warming/breaking story.
Neo Ned is a story about love, or as a previous audience member mentioned "anti-hate". Ned is a neo-Nazi who grew up in an array of torn homes and who witnessed his father's arrest, which tore him away from his son for many years. As an adult, he ends up in a psych ward, only to meet a black woman, whom he falls in love with.
This is certainly not your traditional love story. In all actuality, it quite possibly breaks many, if not all, of the rules of tradition. But who really cares? Overall, the writing, directing, and acting were superb. Hollywood: stop giving us your half-baked movies and start putting real movies with real stories in our theaters. Neo Ned would be a great way to start.
The actors brought Tim's script to life and kept it cooking. The two lead characters became believable and real. I attended the premiere and enjoyed the Q & A session, especially the insight brought to the sexual encounter scene from a young woman who has experienced abuse herself.
Congratulations from a fan in Connecticut!
"Neo Ned" is a nicely watch for a Sunday afternoon film, in the vein of Johnny Depp's "Benny & Joon" where two misfits find love in their own wicked world full of disillusions, violence and abuse. The director tries to not be preachy as usual in a movie involving skinheads, just showing us a modern days' fairy tale oscillating between melodrama & comedy but always with an upbeat feel.
Two times Academy Award nominee, Jeremy Renner, one of the best actors working today, delivers an honest, committed and often naive performance as Ned, a skinhead with a heart of gold suffering for lack of parenthood that just wants to belong. The scene in the bus stop when he was kicked out of the Mental Ward it's downright emotional and beautiful played that may drop a tear on the audience (i cried...).
A funny fact is that Ethan Suplee who played the neo-nazi Seth in "American History X", here plays the benevolent and comprehensive guard at the Mental Ward.
In short, "Neo Ned" needs do be rediscovered, a movie made after the Renner's breakthrough role in "S.W.A.T.", but before his critical & commercial success in Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker". Renner may be a bit too old for the role (the actor had almost 34), but he delivers, for sure.