A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive themes of humility and forgiveness are heavy-handed and ultimately overshadowed by a cynicism toward humanity. Systemic racial justice feels reduced to an exercise in social-emotional learning.
Positive Role Models
Characters are motivated by positive themes like justice and truth. But they seek those things through kidnapping and holding innocent people hostage. Main character Linc is a military veteran with deep love for his country -- which makes his choice to torture and inflict trauma on others extremely problematic. Officer Mike Randall is a hardened cop who learns to value empathy and the power of apology, but only when his life is on the line. Diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender, but little diversity of thought.
Violence & Scariness
Frequent gun use. One character is shot and killed. He's shown lifeless with blood pooling from his head. Conversations about historical forms of violence that Black people have suffered for generations.
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Frequent use of "bitch," "f--k," "s--t," and the "N" word.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that American Skin is a drama about police brutality that's also brutal to watch. It follows Linc (Nate Parker), a bereaved Black father who seeks justice when a White cop (Beau Knapp) murders his son. When the cop faces no legal repercussions, Linc takes the law into his own hands. Mature content includes frequent use of "bitch," "f--k," "s--t," and the "N" word, as well as punching, shoving, and gun violence resulting in death. There are also conversations about the historical forms of violence that Black people have suffered for generations. While positive themes of justice, truth, and empathy are present, cynicism toward humanity prevails. There is diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender, but little diversity of thought. Omari Hardwick and Theo Rossi co-star. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Police brutality is an important topic in American society that's worthy of being depicted with thoughtfulness, nuance, and deep knowledge -- unfortunately, this drama falls short on all three. Star Parker also wrote and directed American Skin, and while the characters are diverse in their identities, their voices reek of his heavy-handed, self-important style. American Skin feels much like a play: one room, a small cast, and many preachy monologues. There's no subtlety in its design, either, with "Blue Lives Matter" and "Back the Blue" flags hanging on the precinct walls.
The arc of American Skin hinges on Randall's ability to empathize with the trauma of being held at gunpoint -- reducing systemic racial justice to an exercise in social-emotional learning. Characters who've been taken hostage unrealistically put aside what must be immense fear in order to go along with the mock trial. And the trial is "justice by force," which goes against Linc's desire for an unbiased outcome. American Skin doesn't do its own topic justice.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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