Peter Mullan's Neds - A disturbing and deeply felt account of social betrayal (4 stars)

Peter Mullan's Neds - A disturbing and deeply felt account of social betrayal

1970s Glasgow juvenile delinquency tale argues that society should shoulder blame

(18) 123min

Never one to shirk a controversial subject, Peter Mullan follows up his attack on hypocrisy and abuse in the Catholic Church in The Magdalene Sisters. Casting a similarly caustic eye over the perennial problem of juvenile delinquency, Neds is evocatively set in Glasgow in the 1970s. Mullan’s argument is that society has to shoulder the blame, and for much of its length, Neds makes a compelling case for that argument

After being menaced at the gates of his primary school by a snorkel-jacketed figure, John McGill (Conor McCarron) is bruised and disillusioned by his experiences of education at the hands of Gary Lewis, Stephen McCole and David McKay, all drawing excellent comic pen-portraits of authority figures. Pinballing between school and the nebulous presence of his father (played by Mullan), John takes advantage of his brother’s notoriety and becomes a central figure in the gangland battles that take place nightly on the suburban streets.

As writer and director, Mullan works hard to subvert the clichés of youth-run-riot dramas such as The Football Factory, but over-reaches himself at several melodramatic key sequences, including one in which John hallucinates that a statue of Jesus has come down from the cross. Such lapses aside, Neds is a disturbing and deeply felt account of social betrayal.

General release, Fri 21 Jan.


  • 4 stars
  • 2010
  • UK / France / Italy
  • 2h 4min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Peter Mullan
  • Written by: Peter Mullan
  • Cast: Conor McCarron, Martin Bell, Grant Wray, Marcus Nash, Linda Cuthbert, John Joe Hay

An ugly, disturbing and deeply felt account of social betrayal set in 1970s Glasgow, starring McCarron as a disillusioned yoof drawn into gangland suburban violence and juvenile delinquency. Clever and caustic filmmaking that works hard to dodge the pitfalls of cliché.