Review: Neds

Neds is a ferocious thing, a convincing contender for a spot in the ranks of great British films about youth violence.

N.E.D.s (Non Educational Delinquents) was one of the terms which were floating around in popular colloquialism before 'chav' emerged triumphant as the universal catch-all term to describe any lower class ne'erdo- well.

As a term, Neds was never going to take off, it was far too cheerful.

Actor Peter Mullen's third time writing and directing takes us to the stupendously rough streets and estates of 1970s Glasgow. It's the era of glam rock; T-Rex and The Sweet dominate the soundtrack. The fashion means that the film often resembles The Bay City Rollers remaking Quadrophenia.

The young John McGill is a bright and studious child, though teachers are wary of him because of the reputation of his older brother, who is a proper ruffian. Physically brutal and relentlessly sarcastic, the teachers are like Gene Hunt cast in Pink Floyd's The Wall.

We rejoin him in his mid-teens and just at the point when he is going to go off the tracks. The role has been taken over by Conor McCarron, a stocky lad with a passing resemblance to Gary Barlow, which is amusing once he becomes involved in the old ultra-violence.

Mullan's feature is gritty and honest and filled with great performances; probably none better than his own turn as McGill's drunken father.

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As a director, though, he is a lot more than the traditional British purveyor of kitchen sink realism. The film has its dark humour and nostalgia but also strange little flights of fancy which may put some viewers off.

Non specific spoiler – this solid and compelling film will divide viewers in its final half hour. At some point, films about juvenile delinquents all reach the same fork in the road, the moment when the protagonist either decides to see the error of his ways or to plunge on through to whatever conclusion his violence and rebellion will lead him.

Neds reaches that point but refuses to make the choice.

Neds (18)

Director: Peter Mullen

With: Conor McCarron, Joe Szula, Mhairi Anderson, Gary Milligan, John Joe Hay and Peter Mullen

Length: 123 mins