The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (33)
| Top Critics (4)
| Fresh (31)
| Rotten (2)
| DVD (2)
The casting is good throughout, but McCarron makes the movie.
A stringent street psychodrama in which brutality is an infection and every male is a carrier.
First-timer McCarron is never less than convincing as a baby-faced brute who can elicit a stranger's sympathy as easily as he can inflict devastating comeuppance.
It's a personal, affecting and pleasingly unusual film, a little too long perhaps and unwieldy in its final stages, but never less than shocking, powerful and utterly relevant.
The result of this gamble is a visceral, raw film free of any pretense.
There's a sense of inevitability about things, certainly, but it seems less written in the stars than unhappily scratched onto the kerb with a flicknife by John himself.
... Despite its bold efforts to the contrary, it ultimately becomes a dehumanising experience and apology for self-ruination.
Kudos to Peter Mullan for this fine bit of history and excellent social commentary.
...echoes other classics of roiling childhood violence.
Neds opens with the sort of celebratory moment that makes you think for a moment that things might be all right.
full review at Movies for the Masses
Mullan is smart enough not to close his subject off; many questions remain, and true to the nature of social mobility, little is ever solved quickly.
A rough and tumble tale of how a bright boy can fall from grace through no obvious fault of his own, forced to go it alone in an environment where gangs of dead-end, aimless boys rule the streets. I thought the hero, John, was inconsistently characterized, but overall, for a movie with an evident message, I thought this was very good, and it even got away with a surreal twist toward the end. Solid, down-in-the-dirt, believable film-making.
A young Scot descends from intellectualism to the brutality of street gangs in the early 70s.
I think there's no doubt that there's a sense of realism to this portrayal of street life in Scotland. But what motivates the protagonist as he oscillates between his two identities - street tough and bright student - remains a mystery throughout the film. It creates an uneven quality to the character and the film as a whole.
However, the performance by Conor McCarron is fantastic, and some of the details, like Mr. McGil's "I want you down here" screams and the scenes of violence, scream verisimilitude. The story avoids cliches by creating a sense of ambivalence on John's part.
Overall, watching Neds is an intense and ultimately rewarding experience even if one never quite gets to know what makes these characters tick or where they're going after the film is over.
Even after graduating primary school with all sorts of honors and awards, young John McGill(Greg Forrest) finds moving on to the next level no easy task, what with Canta(Gary Milligan) threatening him with bodily harm. Well, that's what big brothers are for, especially one as feared as John's brother Benny(Joe Szula) who takes care of the problem very efficiently. Sadly, John's headmaster thinks he will follow in his brother's footsteps, deciding not to place him in the top class like he feels he deserves. In any case, it takes John just a few months to prove him wrong. As a teenager, John(Conor McCarron) continues to get good grades on the way to university. And then...
With his latest film, "Neds," Peter Mullan(he also has a small role as John's abusive father) takes his fimmaking to another level visually to complement the power of his words, with an ending that is more metaphorical than anything else. In fact, there are no speeches in this exploration of the working class teen culture of 1970's Glasgow. The central question is if somebody as smart as John cannot escape, then is there any hope for anybody else?(In an early scene, I get the feeling that his Aunt Beth(Marianna Palka) was wondering if she could smuggle him in her suitcase back to America.) As somebody who is vulnerable, John is corrupted by the allure of violence and power when hanging out with other kids in his neighborhood, without measuring the consequences. At the same time, the teachers here show little interest except keeping order.(To be honest, they teach Latin which I've never gotten close to learning.) There are signs of change over time, but none come close to challenging the local class order.
Following up the quality of "The Magdalene Sisters" was always going to be difficult for writer/director Peter Mullan and although he achieves a similiar hard-hitting authenticity with "Neds", he fails to deliver
a complete, satisfactory retelling of youthful gang culture.
Glasgow 1973; the streets are filled with knife-wielding thugs. Caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place is aspiring teenager John McGill (Conor McCarron). He's ambitious and bright, but held back by an alcoholic father at home and an older brother whose terrifying legend shadows his every step. Social mores and peer pressure turn the young McGill feral, his brooding, bubbling anger rushing to the surface in an orgy of bloody violence.
Mullan knows the time, the people and the city very well, which undoubtedly comes across with his choice of music, his eye for the style of the 70's and brilliant use of Glasgow locations. He also assembles an impressive cast of young, unknown Scottish actors who deliver natural dialogue and excellent performances. I could identify with the characters, their behaviour and the politics of gang culture. This is a portrait of a very real problem that still exists in Glasgow today but despite the realism and attention to detail, Mullan makes the same mistake he did with "Orphans" and injects it with surreal moments, that don't contribute anything positively to the story and only serve as a realisation that he has an egotistical dellusion of his own artistic merit. The film has a lot going for it in terms of it's astute and accurate portrayal of these times, however, it's ruined by the unsure progression of the main character and as a result, the film ends rather ridiculously, not really knowing how to end.
Mullan's attempt at profundity just falls flat but as a portrayal of Glasgow gang culture it's very observant and accurate. It's just a shame that the ending reeked of desperation.
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