Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Ashby Movie Poster Image
Complex, violent comedy explores friendship and mortality.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 103 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Amid the edgy content is the idea that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover -- or a person by what he does for a living.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ed is a kindhearted, respectful high school student who shows a genuine interest in his neighbor, Ashby. For his part, Ashby might be very rough around the edges, but he clearly believes in loyalty and in carrying out your mission.


Ashby is a retired CIA agent who has assassinated about 93 people. Scenes show his skills, including shooting people stealthily, preparing to strangle someone, an all-out gunfight, etc. The violence isn't particularly gratuitous, given the plot, but there's a significant amount. In one scene, a number of high school boys speak lasciviously about, and to, a young girl, with menacing tones.


More talk about sex than actual sex scenes, though in one scene a woman appears to be giving a man oral sex. Also a frank conversation between a mother and her teenage son about her sexuality. A girl briefly flashes her bra to a group of boys.


Frequent language includes "f--k," "s--t," "pr-ck," "crap," "a--hole," and more. Also one homophobic slur.


Products/brands seen include Candy Crush, Cutlass Sierra, Riddel, Ralph Lauren Polo, Chevy Suburban.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some underage drinking at a party; teens are shown holding red Solo cups. One mention of Ritalin, and some social drinking among adults.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ashby is an irreverent comedy with some serious moments that deal with death, sin, murder, and forgiveness -- all pretty heavy stuff that's better suited for older teens. There's a fair amount of violence and murder (one of the main characters is a retired CIA agent/assassin), plus discussions about killing people. In another disturbing scene, young men disrespect a female classmate. You can also expect plenty of swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), and one scene that shows underage drinking. Sexual content includes implied oral sex and talk about sex, including a frank discussion about a mother's sexuality.

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What's the story?

Ed (Nat Wolff) is a high school student who's recently moved to a Virginia town with his single mom (Sarah Silverman). On the outside, he appears to be a Hemingway-loving hipster who would hate sports, if cliches are to be believed. But he has a secret: He loves football and wants to try out for the school's famed team. But the football jocks are already picking on him, and he and his mother have yet to feel settled. When Ed is assigned to interview an elderly person, he decides that his mysterious next-door-neighbor, ASHBY (Mickey Rourke), will be his subject. But Ashby is no regular retiree: He's a retired CIA agent with lots of assassinations under his belt, a widower who also lost his daughter and is grappling with the news that he's got three months left to live. Emma Roberts co-stars as Ed's love interest, who makes him think about his place on the team.

Is it any good?

Like a hail-Mary pass that finds its target, Ashby surprises with uncommon depth and sensitivity for a comedy that's full of violent moments. It's funny, moving, and unpredictable -- a delightful mix. There's so much to like about this film. First and foremost are the lead characters: Ed (played amiably by Wolff) and Ashby, a role that really gives Rourke something to sink his talented teeth into. Rourke knows how to deliver a witty line at just the right moment, with just the right inflection, and Wolff is his perfect partner in crime.

Also refreshing is how the character of Ed's mom, a single mom who freely explores her sexuality, isn't made into fodder for slut-shaming; a few scenes between Silverman and Wolff portray a mature, authentic interaction between mother and son about the subject, and complications, of sex. One flaw? Roberts' character feels a little paint-by-numbers, though she's pivotal in one scene. Bottom line? The film's tussle with mortality and good vs. evil gets a little fuzzy with some of the plot twists, but overall Ashby is a joy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role that violence plays in Ashby. Does it have more or less impact than what you might see in an action or horror movie? Why?

  • Death is a subject that looms over the film. How does the movie handle it, and how does it compare to other films in its treatment of mortality?

  • How is Ashby different from, or similar to, other movies about high school? Are the teen characters relatable and realistic?

  • Does the film depict Ashby's job as glamorous or disturbing?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedies

Themes & Topics

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