Neo Ned

| May 12, 2008

So you’re a socially engineered neo-Nazi who is placed in a mental institution. You relate to no one; you’re condescending; you treat the medical staff like peons and your fellow patients as objects of derision. How do you connect with another human being to share and explore that pain you obviously feel…?
You hook up with the weird chick who checked in the other night.
She’s cute. She shares your violent tendencies. She believes she’s reincarnated from Adolf Hitler and spends most of her time, when not screaming, quoting from her handy bible, Mein Kampf.
Oh, she’s black. Therein lies the rub, as well as the conceit of this film.
Gabrielle Union (Daddy’s Little Girl, Running with Scissors) and Jeremy Renner (28 Weeks Later, SWAT) play the unlikely pair. Jeremy’s Ned conditioning as an angry neo-Nazi is shown as an introductory monologue as we see a young Ned through a series of abusive set-ups all eventually leading to some form of child incarceration. The most telling moment in the film is when his father is arrested before young Ned’s eyes.
Gabrielle Union’s Rachael has a dark secret. Ned plays up an interest in her, and a passive-aggressive courtship begins. Just as Ned and Rachael begin to connect, the evil institutional administrator discharges Ned because the State has stopped paying his Medicaid insurance.
Once on the street with no structure or support, he begins his old shenanigans and winds up stealing a car and breaking Rachael of the hospital. On the road she reveals her secret… a children’s photographer sexually abused her during a visit.
Of course Ned must seek vengeance and with an application of swift and blinding violence he dispatches the evil child molester, who is very reminiscent of the kiddie-toucher that abducted Arnold that one time in Different Strokes. In any event, I think Ned needed to dispense more lead because it was inferred that Rachael’s mom rented her for the hour to the photographer.
Ned is soon arrested, arraigned and incarcerated where he meets his father and his “cellies” and is welcomed into the fold after admitted to killing a child molester. “Son, you done good.”
Sadly, the same can’t be said for Van Fischer’s Neo Ned. The story appears contrived and while the character of Rachael and Ned are interesting and creates a stage for personal conflict and growth, the Nazi link connecting them is farfetched and uninventive, despite its obvious irony. Renner and Union are both good actors and have done really interesting… this ain’t it.

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