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A Score to Settle

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
A Score to Settle Movie Poster Image
Uneven Nicolas Cage action movie; violence, drug use.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 103 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

A man is tied to a chair while another man throws a baseball into the air and swings a baseball bat in his direction before inevitably swinging the baseball bat at the man's skull. Man shot and killed at point-blank range, shot in the forehead. Man shot in the crotch before he's shot and killed. Fighting with punches, kicks, head butts. 

Sex

Lead character has sex with a sex worker in his hotel bed and in his car -- no nudity, very vocal. 

Language

"F--k" used several times. "S--t," "bulls--t," "bitches," "piss." Jokes about penis size. Middle-finger gesture. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the characters is a heroin addict; he's found overdosed in a drug den. Alcohol drinking. Wine drinking. Marijuana smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Score to Settle is a 2019 action movie in which Nicolas Cage plays a mob enforcer released from prison who's looking to get even with those who put him there. Action movie violence incudes the following: A man is tied up and beaten, then killed when another man swings a baseball bat at his skull. A man is shot in the groin before he's shot and killed. Another character is shot and killed at point-blank range. There's fighting with fists, kicks, and head butts, plus frequent profanity, including "f--k" used several times. A character is presented as a recovering drug addict and is later revealed to have already been killed. A character imagines himself going into a drug den and saving the life of his son who has just overdosed with a needle and syringe in his arm. The lead character has sex with a sex worker, first in his hotel bed and then in his car; there's no nudity, but loud moaning throughout. Alcohol drinking and marijuana smoking are seen. 

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What's the story?

Frank (Nicolas Cage) has just been released from prison after serving time for nearly 20 years, and he has A SCORE TO SETTLE. He was a mob enforcer who took the fall for his boss after his boss clubbed a man to death with a baseball bat. Outside the prison gates, he's met by his now adult son Joey (Noah Le Gros), who is ambivalent at best upon reuniting with his father. After Frank finds the bag of money that was buried for him upon release from prison, he wants to take his son on a spending spree -- staying in a luxury hotel, buying expensive suits and watches, and fine dining. The other reason Frank wants to do this is because he's dying. Reconnecting with his son isn't the only item on Frank's agenda. He also wants to get even with his former mob cronies, who didn't hold up their end of the bargain: Frank's wife died while he was incarcerated, and his son sunk into the depths of drug addiction. The first crony Frank reconnects with is Q (Benjamin Bratt), who is now out of the game and running a high-end bar. Q tells Frank where he can find such betrayers like Jimmy the Dragon and The Tank, but as Frank begins to exact revenge, his quest puts his reborn relationship with his son in jeopardy, as well as the unlikely romance that seems to be forming between him and Simone, a sex worker who sees the good in Frank. Frank must decide if it's better to make the best of what he has with the time he has left, or to fulfill his plan of getting even. 

Is it any good?

This so-so action movie has a somewhat interesting storyline marred by various stock characters and clichés and a plot twist that, in hindsight, seems all but inevitable. Nicolas Cage plays Frank, newly released from prison and determined to get even with characters with names like "Jimmy the Dragon" and "The Tank" while also trying to make up for lost time with his now adult son and finding romance in the form of the proverbial "hooker with a heart of gold." This impossible balancing act is further complicated by Frank's impending death due to chronic insomnia. This juggling act between revenge, reconciliation, and romance doesn't quite hold up, and you're left wishing that Frank had simply chosen one of the three and gone from there. 

As Frank, Nicolas Cage is, well, Nicolas Cage, for better or worse. During a climactic scene in A Score to Settle, Cage's exasperated repetition of the word "Beef?!" (as in "beef with me") comes off as unintentionally hilarious self-parody, and should inevitably be converted into GIFs and memes sooner rather than later. And yet, you still find yourself rooting for Frank, even if he wasn't the best person before his imprisonment and doesn't seem that much better after his release, aside from efforts at vulnerability with his son and the aforementioned sex worker/love interest. The result is an uneven and somewhat trite movie, and not one of the better works in the Nic Cage canon. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about action movies. How does A Score to Settle compare to other action movies in terms of story, characters, violent content? 

  • Was the violence necessary to the story, or did it seem gratuitous? Why?

  • A central element to this movie is a "plot twist." What are some other examples of movies with plot twists, or moments that are intended to be unexpected to the viewer? 

Movie details

For kids who love action

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