Neo Ned is a love story. I don't typically go for those, and perhaps the cover should have tipped me off, but it didn't. Also, I was intrigued. Gabrielle Union has done some terrible, straight to DVD stuff, however, as a Tumblr user I thought I was pretty up on most of Jeremy Renner's flicks. Apparently, I was not. I have a spoiler alert at the bottom, because, while I enjoyed this and recommend it, it is slightly uncomfortable and not necessarily for everyone. This page on IMDb isn't set-up quite the same way as others, so here's the abbreviated summary they provide:
Like most kids, Ned idolized his father and dreamed of following in his footsteps. Unfortunately, his father was a two-bit crook who spent most of his life in jail. Without a family of his ...
So, yea, given that I had no real idea what I was in store for.
Renner's character is Ned Nelson. We meet him in a mental institution where he's been placed instead of jail. He and his neo-nazi brethren beat a black man to death. Ned was charged with second degree murder, however, because of a disability Ned is institutionalized instead. He has tantrums that are physical and sometimes a little violent, and counselors question his placement at the facility. Union's character, Rachel, makes an entrance at the facility by having a dramatic outburst and having to be carried in. She has delusions of being Hitler. We later learn she's self-admitted and faking the delusions, however, she was sexually abused by a photographer who had her mother believing he could make her a star. She now has a daughter and lives with the nightmares of the abuse.
Ned and Rachel's relationship grows during the week they are in the institution together. Ned is a talker and he is interested in the new girl. He uses the word "nigger" recklessly and Rachel will randomly yell at him in German. Over the week though, they grow to have a weird bond and Rachel seems to be having a good affect on him. The facility has planned a trip to the zoo and Ned has been on his best behavior so that he can attend with Rachel. A pretty awesome quote from Ned is: "Just because I'm racist doesn't mean I'm not sensitive".
After this initial week, Ned is brought to the head administrator and told he's being discharged. Ned is not happy about this. An orderly drops him off at a bus stop with a ticket and tells him to take care. Ned proceeds to steal car and go the zoo on his own. He proposes he and Rachel run off together. She agrees. They go to meet Ned's mother and start playing house. Ned frequently tells play that they are married. They get an old trailer and start making a life for themselves. Ned gets a job at a diner upon Rachel's request.
Let me say, that I really enjoyed this. Renner acted Ned so perfectly. He is completely unfiltered but not outright rude. His emotions are for everyone to see. Even when he was being guarded it was in this childlike way that felt right. It's obvious that Ned's a good guy at heart, he just didn't have the greatest environment to grow up in. The relationship that blossomed between Ned and Rachel seemed so appropriate. While Ned joined the brotherhood, he was never of that life. He was searching for family and acceptance. Rachel needed a break from life. Their romance, which seemed to last a few weeks, allowed her the escape from reality she needed.
Now for a touch of criticism. This movie has moments that are beyond belief. You don't simply steal a car and no one ever looks. You don't simply get released from an institution if you are charged with a criminal act. You don't simply get to move into an empty trailer just because it's available. The list goes on. I felt the acting --especially from Renner-- was exceptional, but there are so many plot holes that just weren't considered. I don't know if that was on purpose or not, however it's a bit distracting to the story. With all that said, this movie is meant to be out of its time. It was out in 2005, however, from the clothing and the way it's shot it appears to be invoking a vibe of the late 80s, early 90s.
Ned runs into some old friends of his at the diner where we works. He leaves work to go out to a party and proceeds to stay out all night and sleep with some random chick. He arrives home to Rachel mad as hell. There's no yelling (which is how you know the rage is serious). She tells Ned it's time for her to leave and go back to her daughter. Ned is unhappy and wants to go with her, so that they can be a family. Rachel tells him no.
Ned still insist on giving her a ride home and Rachel accepts. Ned has done his homework though and found the photographer that abused her. He goes in to rough him up. Rachel, frightened, stays in the car at first and but then goes in after him. There's a bit of a struggle, but Rachel has a gun. She confronts him with his sick past and the last thing he says is "You didn't say no." Rachel shoots him. Ned tells her to go and that he would stay. He has a plan and Rachel has to go look after her daughter.
Ned is put in jail, but joyfully reunited with his father. Rachel ends up driving down the highway, with her daughter by her side (still in the stolen car).