NEO NED : You know, mixing the races is wrong.

RACHAEL: So what you're saying is...
you're really attracted to me...
you have feelings me.
Is that what you're saying?

NEO NED (2005)
  • A David E. Allen/Blue Raven Films/Mark Borman production in ass. with Kismet Entertainment Group.
  • International sales: Andrew Herwitz, the Film Sales Group.)
  • Producers: Mark Borman, Valerie McCaffrey, David E. Allen.
  • Executive producer ($$$): Kike Harmon Kaslow.


Ned (Jeremy Renner of Dahmer) is a proud member of the Aryan Brotherhood who has been admitted to a mental institution for his involvement in a racially motivated murder. Dr. Magnuson (Cary Elwes) and Johnny (Ethan Suplee) have trouble keeping Ned in line. Boisterous and belligerent, he's prone to childish tantrums when things don't go his way. Still, the other inmates, like Joey (Eddie Kaye Thomas) seem to look up to him. Ned's life at the facility is upended with the arrival of Rachael (Gabrielle Union of Bring It On), a beautiful young black woman who's brought in shouting German, and seems to believe that she's possessed by the spirit of Adolf Hitler. At first, Ned mocks her, and attempts to provoke her, but soon, his feelings toward Rachael turn surprisingly tender. Eventually, Ned and Rachael open up to each other, revealing the past traumas that left them in such a screwed up state. Ned, still reluctant to give up the accoutrements of skinhead life, tells Rachael about his imprisoned father and his unhappy foster care experiences, and Rachael tells him about being sexually abused, and reveals that she has a young daughter. When Ned is released from the hospital, he convinces Rachael to leave with him, but the couple finds life together on the outside difficult.


A gem of a film that explores race relations, genetic fate and the allure of family, Neo Ned is a quality feat of filmmaking. Take a basic premise of two people falling love, add that they both met in a mental institution and then further mix it up by making one a white racist skinhead and the other an African American woman who thinks she’s channeling the soul of Hitler, and you’ve got one Hell of a film. The kind of film that could really go south quick if any aspect is lacking.Luckily, that’s not the case. The acting is top-notch, as Jeremy Renner’s skinhead Ned is played less with the stereotypical hateful racist sneer and more with the ADHD charm of someone who joined a club just to be a part of something and doesn’t really comprehend what’s right or wrong with that choice. Only when forced to come to grips with his romantic feelings towards his supposed enemy, Gabrielle Union’s Rachael, does he finally begin to question his life. And holding up the other end of the film is Gabrielle Union’s performance. Union’s Rachael has finally let the cracks show, and when it has overwhelmed her to the point of convincing her that Hitler’s hanging out inside her body, you can’t help but feel for her. At the same time, the strength it takes for her to move forward and eventually make the ultimate decision she has to make is uncommon in a character seemingly so vulnerable.It’s very rare that you can feel that a film has a strong directorial hand (“feel,” not “notice,” which is a BIG difference). Most times it seems like the actors are just doing their thing, whatever that is, and some guy or girl is just off camera happy that they got the lines right, or that the shot was framed a certain way. Neo Ned, however… not only are the performances stellar, even from the smaller roles like Ned’s mother played by Sally Kirkland to the psychiatrist portrayed by Cary Elwes (who proves here that he’s not just the scene-chewing goof he recently portrayed in Saw), but you feel a strong directorial voice guiding them. We’ve seen all these actors perform in the past, we know what they’ve been capable of and they all elevate their game with this one and I can only imagine that it’s due to Van Fischer’s directorial influence. In that aspect the film becomes a worthy study for film students as well as a solid film. Neo Ned is rare in today’s independent film world in that it is a very unique take on the concept of love and family. Never boring, never pretentious, never preachy, Neo Ned could find its place alongside some of the great independent romance films of all time, if enough people are able to catch a glimpse of it.

VARIETY review

The tale of a neo-Nazi skinhead in love with a black single mother who's channeling Adolf Hitler in a psychiatric hospital, "Neo Ned" may be ludicrous on paper, but it has what fans of independent film are looking for -- atmosphere, humanity and just a dash of fantastic drama. And while swastikas and racial epithets are part and parcel of its emotional and tonal consistency, the film’s abundant humor never fails to show through, which could translate into cult and sleeper hit status in the right hands. Title character is a young man committed to a psychiatric hospital for his involvement in the murder of a black man. There, he meets another patient — a beautiful remote young black woman who appears possessed by Hitler. Yet, a potentially disturbing set of circumstances is made not just palatable but touching, because Ned (Jeremy Renner) is so desperately alone, and Rachael (Gabrielle Union) is so smart she won’t be baited by a guy she feels is more deserving of pity than hate. Despite the characterizations, the undertone of “Neo Ned” is actually one of tolerance and understanding. Rachael, who sporadically barks out orders in German, is a poignantly broken young woman with a history of being sexually abused. And Union, on the verge of major stardom (“Bring It On,” the upcoming “Honeymooners”) doesn’t miss a beat. Ned comes from a home where his father was incarcerated much of the time and his mother (a winning cameo by Sally Kirkland) is a regular guest on Jerry Springer-style TV shows. What he wants is to belong — and if no one else will have him, he’ll take the Nazis. Renner gives a captivating performance, laying bare Ned’s underlying pathos even as the character ostensibly tries to hide it.Some auds might find it hard to sit through Ned’s regular use of the N-word; that the movie is so kind to a jackbooted racist, even a half-hearted one like Ned, might rub people the wrong way, too. But director Van Fischer — working off the Slamdance award-winning screenplay by Tim Boughn — balances things like the guy with the pie plates.

EYE FOR FILM (UK) review

It's a brilliant high concept, the sort of thing that John Waters at his best couldn't have dreamed up: a love story about a white trash neo-Nazi (Jeremy Renner) who falls for a black (Gabrielle Union) who thinks she's Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately it's also a better concept than film, which succeeds in grabbing your attention but doesn't really deliver what it seems to promise, as it soon emerges that the Hitler routine is just that and that underneath his SS lightning rune tattooed skin, the neo-Nazi is just a confused little boy who desperately wants to be loved and accepted. (Klaus Theweleit eat your heart out.) Consequently we don't get onto the same kind of dangerous, yet exhilarating and throught-provoking ground as, say, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest or Taxi Driver, of being drawn into identifying with characters who would force us to question our own beliefs and assumptions. Worse, Neo Ned is also perhaps guilty of parading the same old talk-show obsessed, trailer-dwelling crackers for the amusement of their more privileged counterparts, who would do well to remember that while proportionally more African-Americans may live in poverty there are more whites numerically in this position - and these being whites who have never benefited from any sort of affirmative action. Or, maybe, just maybe, this is Neo Ned's truly radical agenda: that it's ultimately not about racial divisions - they're just a pigment of the imagination, as some wit once put it - but those between America's haves and have nots, bringing us to that most un-American of concepts, class. Whatever the debates here - I'm not sure whether the filmmakers really had any worked through agenda to go with their central conceit/concept - there's no question as to the quality of the performances from the two leads, who give their characters more nuance and credibility than the filmmakers themselves allowed for. And, perhaps, in the end, they're just about enough...

10 awards, out of 10 total nominations.
  • 2005 Slamdance Film Festival: Best Narrative Feature
  • 2006 Ashland Independent Film Festival: Best Feature Film
  • 2006 Newport Beach Film Festival Outstanding Achievement in Directing, Van Fischer
  • 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival: Best Actor, Jeremy Renner; Best Actress, Gabrielle Union; Best Director, Van Fischer; Best Feature
  • 2006 San Diego Film Festival: Best Feature Film; Best Screenplay, Tim Boughn
  • 2005 Sarasota Film Festival: Best Narrative Feature

After three years of festival screenings, Neo-Ned premiered on Fizz (Sky UK channel 361).

Post a comment

Private comment




Search form
Latest Journals
Latest comments
Monthly archive
Friend Request Form

Want to be friends with this user.