A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Fight crime and criminals. Keep trying even when the chips are down and don't give up.
Positive Role Models
Won Ho is a dedicated cop who desperately wants to catch Mr. Lee, a mastermind criminal who operates in the shadows. Ho never gives up and continues to get back up each time he falls. He's brave and courageous. He tries to protect his team as best he can.
The cast is Korean, and women play some small roles, but this is a male-dominated cast, film, and story. Women are either portrayed sexually or in supportive roles.
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Violence & Scariness
Plenty of blood, violence, brutality, and some gore. Moments of injury detail, including animal harm, like when a dog is injured and it has patches of skin and fur missing. People get shot, including in the head, stabbed with knives, beat up, kicked, stomped, punched, chairs smashed over them, hit with objects like lamps and glass, and severely hurt. People die, are burned, and a man has his arm sawed off (his body is shown afterwards). A teen girl is tied up and left beaten and slumped against a car. Human eyeballs are put in glasses of alcohol and two men drink them down, chewing on the contents. A man is tied up, tortured with a blowtorch, and burned on his back all over. A man is blown up from an explosion up close. A group of people sitting around a conference table are blown up as the building explodes entirely. Two people die of overdose while trapped in a shipping container with their young son. Another woman overdoses on a white powder type drug.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some nudity. Bare breasts are briefly shown. Two adults romantically kiss and make out. Adults head off to go have sex, presumably.
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Strong language includes all variations of "f--k," including "motherf--ker," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "bastard," "Chink," "Jap," "goddamn," "damn," and "hell."
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Products & Purchases
References to Samsung.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The movie revolves around criminal groups fighting for control over a fictional drug called "Laika," and it looks like a white powder or a blue powder. People snort, make, and distribute it. Full labs are shown with multiple chemists producing the drug. The "high" and effects of the drug are shown as people experience various symptoms after taking the drug. Adults often smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Believer is a Korean crime thriller that reimagines Johnnie To's Drug War, a Hong Kong action thriller in the same vein. In Believer, various criminal factions and enterprises fight for control over a new drug on the market called "Laika." Expect lots of violence, blood, brutality, gore, and some injury detail, including some involving a dog. People get shot, including in the head, stabbed, beaten, kicked, punched, thrown, cut, and have objects smashed over them. People die, and dead bodies pile up. Some are tied up and tortured, like when a man has his arm sawed off or when another man is burned with a blowtorch all over his back. Human eyeballs are placed into glasses of alcohol and two men drink them down, chewing on the contents. People are blown up from explosions, and others die of drug overdoses. Dead bodies are shown after the fact. Adults often drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. Much of the film revolves around the production, distribution, and control of a fictional drug that looks like a white or blue powder. Adults snort powder drugs a fair amount and their "highs" are shown. In terms of sexual content, there is a scene of brief nudity when a woman shows her bare breasts. A woman and a man also head off to a bedroom to have sex after romantically kissing. Strong language includes all variations of "f--k," including "motherf--ker," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "bastard," "Chink," "Jap," "goddamn," "damn," and "hell." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Despite being fun to watch, many of this thriller's elements sound good on paper, but everything doesn't quite come together. Moments of brutal and bloody violence throughout Believer do help shock the viewer into remembering that the stakes are high, but this film sorely misses a foundation and a heart. Even though events are preceded by a brief attempt to ground the ongoings in a real-world corporate context, the film rushes off to set piece after set piece, twist and turn after twist and turn, and never stops to breathe, do some world-building, character development, or contextualizing. After meeting some minor players, Won Ho races off to chase lead after lead, with each encounter often leaving many people dead, shot, beaten, or tortured. Perhaps if there were more explanations for Won Ho's dedication, we might be more behind his effort. Sure he's a good cop, but we know very little about him as a person, his life, his family, his past, his career, his friends, etc. The old cliched question, "what's his motivation?" keeps popping up, and it is never answered.
Unfortunately, this means that the film lacks a heart or a center. It lacks a central reason for why we should care about whether or not these criminals or Mr. Lee are ever caught. What made the great Chow Yun-fat led crime thrillers in his John Woo days (The Killer, Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow) was that he always had a heart, whether cop or criminal. Instead, in Believer, only the fantastical and maniacal criminals are the ones to appreciate, as they are unpredictable, insane, and simply, much more fun. Indeed, the most electric characters are the ones who aren't Won Ho: Cha Seung-won's Brian and Kim Ju-hyuk's Jin Ha Rim both completely steal the show.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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