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Netflix Streaming Review - 'Neo Ned' (Neo-Nazi Falls For Black Woman Who Thinks She's Hitler)

Reviews
by Malcolm Woodard
July 30, 2013 7:16 PM
6 Comments
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On its surface, and in its most basic form, Neo Ned might sound like a Monsters Ball retread - a young black single mother gets romantically involved with a racist white man. But will digging further reveal more?

The titular Ned (played by Jeremy Renner) is laden with enough emotional baggage to totally destroy any human soul. As a child, he saw his racist, irresponsible father incarcerated indefinitely; he's shopped from one foster home to the next, including one suicidal family, who almost kill him. Ned never quite had a real family, and like most young adults with his history and desires, he clings to any group that wants and accepts him - even if it's made up of neo-Nazi skinheads who commit race-crimes, as is the case in Neo Ned.

We've heard of the hooker with the heart of gold; In Ned's case, switch "hooker" with "skinhead." But he's also quite nutty, unpredictable, and prone to irrational behavior, although balanced with moments of calm, reason, and even love, encouraging, but not necessarily demanding that you empathize with his plight. But for the story to work, the audience has to. Although, oddly, despite his mercurial nature, his actions are largely predictable, if only because we've seen this character make-up before; he's cliched. And that makes the story less of a mystery.

Even when he starts to fall for Gabrielle Union's character (Rachael), in that kind of innocent, pubescent way that I think we can all recall (though both of them are adults), we aren't surprised. For her part, Union mostly holds her own; although, having been relegated to mostly rom-com fluff leading up to this, she wasn't always entirely believable here, and there were moments when I felt like I could actually see her working the lines, as opposed to embodying, and disappearing into the character. But the overall attempt was a decent one, and it's good that she took on a role unlike anything she'd ever previously played.

Her character is also loaded with oodles of emotional baggage; specifically, she was molested as a young girl, by a family portrait photographer - a white man, by the way. She has a daughter of her own, who's being taken care of by her grandmother, as Rachael heals in a facility for the emotionally unstable - which is where she first meets Ned. And, by the way, she believes that she's the reincarnation of Hitler, and his soul lives within her; she frequently spouts out German prose, much to the delight of Ned - a somewhat indoctrinated neo-Nazi himself.

But no one is really who they say or believe that they are, as each is essentially hiding behind a facade as a defense mechanism. As the layers covering both are gradually pulled back, we see that underneath each patina of shit, lie 2 vulnerable, unhappy, lonely people, who really just want what they've never really had for much of their lives - to belong to a stable unit - and they find that in each other, however uncertain it is.

It's Jeremy Renner's/Ned's show all the way - obviously, since his name is in the title of the film; and Union's character is there to serve his. It's about his transformation, his growth, and she's the pivot. Even though their meeting at the facility was purely coincidental, it did seem planned; as if everyone else was in on the joke, except Ned, in a Truman Show-esque way.

In the end, Ned demonstrates his love for Rachael, in an act of altruism, with fatal consequences. Childhood demons are revisited and eliminated - literally.

This film was made 9 years ago, long before Jeremy Renner's Oscar-nominated role in The Hurt Locker, and his performance in Neo Ned was sound. I believed him as this emotionally unstable young man, searching for some stability. Union showed that she can pull off something more challenging than the usual, if given the opportunity to do so; granted, as I said, she wasn't consistent in her performance.

It's a scrappy little film; atmospheric, with its mostly dark, saturated colors, and mood music. And there are some genuinely funny, quirky moments delivered by Renner in that offbeat, "indie-drama" way.

Almost any film made after 1975 that takes place mostly in a mental institution will likely be compared to Milos Forman's multiple award-winning One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest. But Neo Ned isn't at all trying to be that film, thankfully. Given such a bizarre premise, director Van Fischer really could have dug deeper and created something much more exhilarating and thought-provoking with Neo Ned. But this was a respectable start.

Overall, a decent flick, even though predictable and cliched; but it had enough to keep me engaged for much of its 97 minute running time.

I'd say see it once, but no rush.


Neo Ned by skinandbones

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6 Comments

  • urbanauteur | August 8, 2013 1:26 PMReply

    Interesting premise;-)

  • Monique a williams | July 31, 2013 4:38 PMReply

    I'd been meaning to watch this for years. Thanks for the review.

  • Mekisha Hale | July 31, 2013 3:20 PMReply

    Just read the article on Neo Ned starring actor Jeremy Renner and actress Gabrielle Union. It was some time ago no cable I remember watching this unusual film. At one point I watch it without feeling if it was going to be good or not. But found it to be some what pretty good movie it wasn't the sort of film that usually you would see the way it was love story but just not in the basic love story that was written in a Hollywood way. But independent movie way without boundaries it did something to make you rethink about these characters Gabrielle Union acting did catch in the movie it was profound and Ned truly in a way did love Rachael. I found the movie to be interesting then what was the first notion after watching it wasn't as bad as I thought.

  • Donella | July 31, 2013 1:08 PMReply

    LOL@this movie.

  • Grace | July 30, 2013 11:44 PMReply

    Such an incredibly acted movie, Jeremy Renner was and is amazing, and I wish Gabrielle Union chose more roles like this cause she can do them when paired with someone as great as Renner. It's a shame to see a film like this shelved so much, it really is (despite admitted cliches) a great indie romantic film with off beat and honest comedy. It is scrappy, rough around the edges and somehow formulaic, but its still refreshing. It's good in the way that a great low budget indie is good. I own it, and its worth a watch every once in a while when I can muster the emotional energy I need to keep up with Renner's character!

  • CC | July 30, 2013 10:56 PMReply

    I saw it once and now I am hush... wouldn't recommend it to any of my friends.

    Well, if you've seen one Hollywood mental institution scene and their off beat characters, you've seen this flick. Really, Neo Ned (Jeremy Renner) got on my damn nerves being a complete jerk. I'm serious, I didn't feel once ounce of compassion for this di*khead.

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