Neo Ned (2005)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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It's fair enough to ask, "What were they thinking?" regarding Van Fischer's aggressively offbeat low-budget drama, Neo Ned. Or even just, "Huh?" The film can be conveniently synopsized, for those prepared to dismiss it, sight unseen, (or perhaps seek it out to satisfy morbid curiosity) thusly: Two psychiatric inmates -- a violent neo-Nazi (played by the creepily intense Jeremy Renner, who previously starred in Dahmer) and a beautiful black woman who thinks she's Adolf Hitler (played by Gabrielle Union, whose previous credits have been fairly innocuous) -- fall in love. Hijinks ensue. But, of course, there are complications. Neither character is particularly credible, but Renner and Union do effective work. Brimming with manic, ADHD-inflected enthusiasm, Renner exudes a goofy energy that makes Ned seem incapable of doing any real harm. Unlike, say Edward Norton in American History X or Tim Roth in Alan Clarke's superb Made in Britain, Ned's skinhead identity is not rooted in genuine anger, but in an unfocused mistrust of authority and a confused need for acceptance. Rachael's Hitler schtick, meanwhile, is essentially a red herring. Incendiary on its surface, Neo Ned eludes any honest or meaningful examination of race (and the other issue it raises, child abuse) to a startling extent. The film works best as a quirky romance between two damaged people trying to find a place in the world, giving rise to the notion that Fischer and screenwriter Tim Boughn intend Ned's and Rachael's obsessions as a strange metaphor for the more typical problems and incompatibilities faced by young couples. Or it could just be a cynical hook, intended to give their film the necessary "edginess" to stand out from the indie pack. Either way, despite the conviction of the two leads, the film doesn't really work.