Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of five): ***
Peter Mullan is a wonderful actor (The Red Riding Trilogy, Boy A, Children of Men) and a good writer/director (Orphans, The Magdalene Sisters and now, NEDS -- which stands for Non-Educated Delinquents.
Although his latest film -- which deals, and very well, with the smarter, younger son of a dysfunctional family who gets slowly sucked into "gang" life -- was part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival line-up, it did not get much, if any, of a theatrical release. It is, however, certainly worth seeing, which makes its recent DVD debut appreciated, despite a major flaw in the film.
The first half is terrific: dynamic, funny, surprising and beautifully acted by all. We'd expect this from Mullan, who's proven himself a consistently fine actor who now turns occasionally to writing and directing and who certainly seems to know this particular milieu like the back of his hand.
Kids, and all the various trouble they can get up to, are like catnip to the filmmaker, and here, he is dealing with an extremely bright boy who sees the system set against him early on. As his anger builds, he finds some interesting and creative ways to use it, and it is here that Mullan as writer and director succeeds best: letting us see how this behavior crests and breaks, along with all the collateral damage it can finally do.
As the movie proceeds however, it becomes, as does its lead character (played by fine newcomers Greg Forrest, as the young lad, and Conor McCarron, as the beefy, older boy), more and more overwrought. This leads to, I am afraid, redemption spelled in big, block letters, making for a heavy-duty finale, which is more than this generally realistic and pleasurably small movie can bear.
Still, I'd love to learn what happens to this young man, after said event. Maybe there'll be a chapter two, and if so, I’ll be there to see it. DVD includes some deleted scenes as a bonus.
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