Film, Drama
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The Scottish actor and director Peter Mullan is a man intrigued and terrified by the ties that bind us – the links to our families, class and backgrounds that drag us to our destinies, sometimes kicking and screaming like the doomed women in his last film, 2002’s ‘The Magdalene Sisters’. His new film, ‘Neds’, is a no-nonsense, often brutal and violent film with the odd hint of dreamy, comic fantasy. It’s set in Glasgow in 1972, where it always looks like dusk in winter, and Mullan gives us a young teen, John (first played by Gregg Forrest, then Conor McCarron, in an assured debut), who makes a swift, downwards journey from gongs to gangs: we first meet him winning an award at his junior school – but before long, he’s wielding a knife as the most reckless member of a local mob of hard nuts.

Mullan points the finger at both school and home: John’s teachers are brutish, ineffective or mad; his father, played by Mullan, floats through the house like an alcoholic ghost and terrorises his mother with his tongue and fists; and his older brother Benny (Joe Szula) is a bully boy with a reputation that protects and defines his younger sibling.

The tale and its themes are familiar, and the most obvious recent comparison is Shane Meadows’s ‘This Is England’ – but Mullan and Meadows are miles apart in tone. Mullan rejects all cosy period tics and music choices and aims for a stark look and feel and a discomfiting clash of styles. Mostly, he goes for straight-down-the-line realism, but he also calls on heightened acting from some actors, such as from himself as John’s father and Gary Lewis as a teacher who gives John a piggy-back, and inserts some sequences of pure, expressive fantasy – one even involving lions. 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.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: 18
Release date: Friday January 21 2011
Duration: 122 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Peter Mullan
Screenwriter: Peter Mullan
Cast: Conor McCarron
Joe Szula
Mahari Anderson
Gary Miligan
John Joe Hay

Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:8
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
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I spent my teens and early 20s living in Glasgow so I was always going to love this film, which I did. The adolescent social heirarchy and class divisions were well-portrayed. The prevalence of alcohol, blades, machismo and meaningless territorialism that still characterizes much of Glasgow was humorously but accurately represesnted. The period was nicely recreated visually, but the one thing that occasionally broke the illusion was the use of modern Glaswegian vernacular instead of words that fitted the 70s setting. I suspect Mullen had to allow this to ensure that his largely inexperienced cast could exchange their dialogue with enough fluidity to sound convincing, but it did cause me to wince more than a few times; "amazing" has only relatively recently been commonly used to express approval. Glaswegian youths in the 70s and 80s were not so frequently amazed. Similarly, the term of endearment "mate" didn't used to be stuck on the end of every sentence between young men in Glasgow the way it is nowadays. A minor issue though in what was a very enjoyable film.

A brilliant film, yet, I don't get the part with the lions. What does it mean, anyway?

Okay but lots of things I didn't get, like WTF was with him duct tapping knives to his hands and did he kill his dad and did the lions eat him? Or just the person he made retarded and why did that guy give him a piggy-back at the start, he was like 15. Also I had to put subtitles on lol.

Awfully, boring non sense! Waste of time and a contender for worst film of all time, dreadful, random and meaninless scenes. Weird movie!

I enjoyed this film. I am the same age as the main characters and was at school in the late 60s and early 70s. Thank god I wasnt living in Glasgow but I did recognise most aspects of the film and it felt very real to me. I didnt understand half of what was said but never felt that it ruined the film. I didnt need "SINGPOSTS" to explain the actions of the main character. I accepted that this was the truth as it felt like watching a documentary. I guess his big problem was he was bright but from the wrong part of town. My only problem with the film was I felt I had seen whole chunks of it before. It was almost de ja vue at times. This didnt reduce my enjoyment of the film but a avoiding some visual and script cliches would have made for something exceptional as opposed to something very good. If you've bever seen a film about growing up in a hard place, being in gangs and coping with violent peer pressure this film would be a brilliant brilliant film.

kind of winsrtone-esque but is it a great film, no. Is it entertaining, yes. Its it violent, yes but not gratuitously. Its a shame because its disjointed, i feel it lacked a couple of scenes that would have made it a true masterpiece.

I finally got round to watching this the other day and while I am a massive fan of Peter Mullan and Glasgow based films, I was a little disappointed with this. The story is basically Football Factory without the football. I feel bad saying that because I wanted this film to be so much more. It certainly has a much better sense of realism than Football Factory but the mindless violence and thug characters are not as fleshed out as you might expect from someone like Mullan. Clearly he has an affection for the protagonist and Mullan quite rightly does not glorify the violence like Nick Love or Guy Ritchie would - but there should have been more time spent on character development. The main character goes from good to bad without much reason at all. One day he cares about his grades, the next day he mouths off to his teacher, the next day he's carrying a knife, the next day he uses it and so on. Why he does this is never addressed. Don't get me wrong, the film is still good - but it could have been so much better with a few tweaks to the script.

For a film which looks so good this is an ultimately disappointing ride and suggests a director without a whole lot to say. A 'wafer thin' plot ruins the enterprise and the story has already been told more eloquently in Small Faces. The overall feeling I am left with is one of missed opportunities. The cast and crew deserved better from their writer/director.

saw it, loved it :) highly recommend it to anyone brilliantly acted and is as real as it gets

Watchable albeit over-rated drama. Too much violence for my own taste. The swaggering, slightly chubby Conor McCarron reminded me of the young Ray Winstone in `Scum`.

A shocking,violent yet at times a humerous film.Brutal from almost start to finish.Worth watching if only for the Safari Park scene at the end of this memorable film. Some people may find subtitles of benefit in watching this,I struggled at times and I live in Scotland!!

As you’d expect, not a laugh-a-minute storyline, but fantastically captures the spirit of the 70’s, and what it was like to be at secondary school at that time. The pressure of being considered ‘in’ by peers is the underlying theme throughout the story, and is superbly observed. Very well acted by a mainly teenage cast. Despite the violence, I really enjoyed this film. Well deserved 4 stars. Highly recommended.

Saw it in Toronto, was an immensely dark and satisfying movie...brilliant acting and camera work make it seem close to real life. Recommended for any London Film Fest Go-ers!

Saw it in Toronto, was an immensely dark and satisfying movie...brilliant acting and camera work make it seem close to real life. Recommended for any London Film Fest Go-ers!