American Dream

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
American Dream Movie Poster Image
Mob violence, language in unoriginal noir thriller.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 83 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No positive messages in noir thriller about a pair of Russian American entrepreneurs who suffer the consequences of agreeing to and then reneging on a deal with a sociopathic Russian mobster.

Positive Role Models

Dark story explores the seedy underbelly of first-generation Russian Americans trying to make their American dream a reality. Some stereotypes.

Violence

In the movie's prologue, a woman riding on a passenger train in Russia is pulled out of her seat by two men, and then sexually assaulted in the train corridor. She fights back, then freezes in shock before she's thrown off the train by the men. Mob violence. A man is tied to a chair, mouth tied up with plastic wrap while a man smashes his hands with a sock filled with quarters. Attempted hanging. Man beaten with a tire iron. Man killed with a shovel to his throat. Jogger punched out while trying to stop two men from harassing a woman in a park. Characters shot and killed.

Sex

Characters have sex in bed -- female nudity (breasts) and sex sounds. Characters shown having sex on the beach, no nudity. Woman wears a revealing see-through t-shirt. Man receives oral sex from a trans prostitute while in his car.

Language

Frequent profanity. "F--k" often used. Also: "bulls--t," "a--hole," "s--t," "ass," "bastard." Lewd sexual comments from villain when he confronts the girlfriend of one of the main characters; he asks his henchman while pointing at the girlfriend, "Would you f--k her?"

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Binge drinking at a wedding. Men shown drunk after drinking too many vodka shots. Beer drinking. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Dream is a 2021 noir thriller in which a pair of Russian American entrepreneurs must stop a sociopathic Russian mobster after they renege on a deal he offers them. In the movie's prologue, a woman on a passenger train in Russia is pulled out of her seat by two men, and then sexually assaulted in the train corridor before she's thrown off the train. A man who tried to cheat the mobster is shown tied to a chair with plastic wrap around his mouth. He gets bludgeoned in the hands by the mobster, who wields a sock filled with quarters. Characters fight and kill with guns, tire irons, shovels. Attempted hanging. Gratuitous sex scene with female nudity (breasts) and sex sounds. While in his car, a man receives oral sex from a transgendered prostitute. Frequent profanity, including "f--k." Cigarette smoking. Binge vodka shot drinking at a wedding, leading to drunkenness. Beer drinking.

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What's the story?

In AMERICAN DREAM, Scott (Luke Bracey) and Nicky (Michiel Huisman) are best friends and the Americanized sons of Russian immigrants. They're trying to make their dream of building and owning an apartment complex in Los Angeles a reality, but are faced with money shortages and no more help from the banks. Enter Yuri (Nick Stahl), who shows up to a community wedding they're attending in a luxury sports car, and presents himself as the epitome of wealth and success. When he learns of their plight, Yuri offers to help, and with nowhere else to turn, Scott and Nicky reluctantly agree to accept Yuri's help. Shortly after accepting this help, the bank decides to provide the funding Scott and Nicky need to complete construction, but when they try to renege on the deal they made with Yuri, Yuri shows them his dark side, and begins to extort them, and resorts to increasingly sociopathic methods of getting the money he believes that he's owed. Ana, Nicky's girlfriend and a recent immigrant from Russia, has a better idea of the kind of people Scott and Nicky are dealing with, and the three must find a way to fight back, stop Yuri for good, and retain ownership of their apartment complex.

Is it any good?

In case you've missed other mob-centered movies that show you what happens when you try to cross mobsters, especially when it concerns money, here's another movie that shows the consequences. American Dream is a noir thriller that follows the action that ensues after a pair of Russian American entrepreneurs make a deal with the devil in the form of a sociopathic Russian mobster eager to prove both his worth and his toughness. The biggest difference between this and other mob-centered movies is that the characters are Russian instead of other ethnicities recently arrived to America who soon learn that the attainment of success in America isn't easy, and for many, offers questionable ethics. Unfortunately, the Russian aspects to this movie aren't explored nearly enough, and while there are some nods to Russian American culture (weddings with vodka shots, etc.), these qualities are forsaken in favor of a shopworn mob story. 

It's not a bad movie, but there just isn't enough there to make it a good movie. The "good guys," such as they are, aren't especially likable. They're best friends, and their dream in life is to build and own an apartment complex in Los Angeles, California. The psychotic mobster Yuri, played by Nick Stahl, is perhaps the most fully-developed character in the movie, but even that's an unsuccessful attempt at the murderous mobster/family man dichotomy we've all seen before. After torturing a parking meter attendant who tried to scam Yuri out of some quarters, the audience gets to see that Yuri is not such a bad guy because he has a daughter with whom he takes to his legit business (laundromats) and teaches her about the importance of staying on top of her finances. While there's something almost there in the irony of the title and a slice of the Russian American experience, too much of that gets lost in a mobster-wants-his-money story we've all seen before. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how American Dream is a "mob movie." How is this similar to and different from other movies centered on the actions and business practices of mobsters?

  • What is the significance of the title of the movie, and how is the title intended to be somewhat ironic?

  • How are the lives of first-generation Russian American immigrants represented in the movie? Did it offer a glimpse into Russian American culture, or did it stick more to a story rooted in violence?

Movie details

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