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American Renegades

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
American Renegades Movie Poster Image
Military heist movie is violent but breezy, entertaining.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Lots of unapologetic, rude behavior, but also some fine teamwork -- and, in the very end, acts of generosity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Navy SEALs are unapologetically pushy, stomping all over the country in which they're visitors with aggressive machismo and bravado. Some may see them as heroic, but others will see them as ugly Americans.

Violence

Lots of guns and shooting. A man is shot in the head (no blood shown). Nazis smack a woman with a gun. Air battle in which a plane shoots at a helicopter. Explosions. Chase scene with a tank, lots of destruction. Knife fight, stabbing. Fighting, punching, manhandling. Threats. Description of a small girl dying in a car accident.

Sex

Characters kiss, undress for sex; nothing sensitive shown. Woman seems to be naked in bed, under covers. Two characters stripped to their underwear. Flirting.

Language

Several uses of "s--t," plus "p---y," "a--hole," "ass," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," "penis," "balls," and "Jesus" and "Jesus Christ" (as exclamations).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief scenes of heavy drinking. Some drunkenness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Renegades is a violent military-themed action/heist movie, about Navy SEALs trying to recover stolen Nazi gold from the bottom of a Bosnian lake. Expect lots of guns and shooting; characters are killed (one is shot in the head), and there are explosions, scenes of destruction, knife fights/stabbing, fighting, a Nazi hitting a woman with a rifle, and more. A brief sex scene includes kissing, undressing, and suggested sex, but nothing graphic is shown. There's also flirting, suggested nudity, and men in their underwear. Language includes several uses of "s--t," plus "a--hole," "p---y," and more. Characters drink very heavily in several sequences, sometimes to excess. Coming from writer/producer Luc Besson, it's a bit overblown in spots -- and the American characters can easily be seen as aggressive and unapologetically pushy -- but it's also lightweight and hard to take too seriously.

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What's the story?

In AMERICAN RENEGADES, a flashback to WWII shows a young boy in Bosnia escaping the Nazis and coming upon a stolen cache of gold; the resistance blows up a dam, and all the gold ends up under a deep lake. Years later, that boy's granddaughter, Lara (Sylvia Hoeks), has been spending time with Stanton (Charlie Bewley), who's part of a team of Navy SEALs stationed in Bosnia. Lara shows him a gold bar that she retrieved from her grandfather's hiding place and asks him whether he and his crew can help bring up some $300 million worth of gold from the lake; she hopes to use half of it to help her community. So the SEALs devise a crazy plan to get all the gold in one night -- but they must do it under the nose of a cunning commanding officer (J.K. Simmons). More trouble comes when Lara's thieving brother finds the gold bar, and the Serbian army is alerted.

Is it any good?

Another of Luc Besson's compact, lightweight action movies, this one has a bit too much bravado, but it ultimately finds its way and provides a measure of silly, breezy fun. Co-written and co-produced by Besson and directed by Steven Quale, American Renegades was released a year earlier in Europe under the shorter title Renegades and didn't perform well, so the "American" was tacked on for its (delayed) U.S. release. It's fitting. There's a strong machismo here that supposedly justifies the American characters' behavior; this includes anything from destroying half of a Bosnian town with a stolen tank to flicking a lighted match at a tableful of locals in a bar.

The movie's trumpeting score adds to this effect, but once the story of the gold recovery gets going, American Renegades starts to turn on the fun. The screenplay throws some interesting obstacles in the characters' paths, and their camaraderie starts to click, while the underwater cinematography during the heist itself is often impressive. Best of all is Besson's simple, peppy touch, which is impossible to take very seriously. And just when the movie seems like it's going to lag, Oscar winner Simmons appears, barking his entertainingly edgy dialogue and saving the day.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about American Renegadesviolence. How did it make you feel? Was it thrilling or shocking? Did the relative lack of blood make it seem less intense?

  • How is drinking depicted? Is it glamorized? Does it look fun or cool? What are the consequences?

  • How are Americans portrayed in this movie? Are they champions, winners, saviors? Or are they irresponsible and clueless? A mix of both? How does that affect the way you feel about their characters?

  • Does the movie model teamwork?

Movie details

For kids who love action

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