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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No real takeaway other than that dogs should be treated nicely.
Positive Role Models
No admirable characters of note, although the supposedly bad dog still has good in him.
Violence & Scariness
Dog fighting is implied, rather than shown, but there's plenty of it -- lots of offscreen mauling is supported with audio elements, with dead or badly wounded animals shown afterward. A dog is shot several times on-screen; others are tortured and murdered by humans just off camera. There's a fair amount of blood. Several humans are killed by a dog; two people are shot, and one is punched. One dies of a drug overdose.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nude pinup photos on a wall; they're shown prominently (and interacted with) in one scene.
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Frequent strong language. "F--k" is used in place of most adjectives. Also some use of "s--t" and other words. None of the language is used for emotional/graphic effect.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One character is an opioid addict; he dies via overdose. In flashback, viewers see an abusive father drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Bullet Head is a mature thriller about thieves who take refuge in an underground dog fighting arena. It has a lot of very strong language (specifically, the chronic use of "f--k"), but it's the gory violence involving dogs that's more likely to be nightmarish for younger viewers. Little of the fighting is actually shown, but tons is implied offscreen. And the aftermath of the fights (dead/wounded, bloody animals) is shown, as are torture and murder. Expect to see shootings, drug use (including an overdose), injuries, and pinup-photo nudity. Adrien Brody, John Malkovich, Rory Culkin, and Antonio Banderas 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?
This thriller's pervasive cruelty to animals and animal-related violence comes under the cover of being pro-dog, which comes across as insincere. ("Isn't it awful that people do this to animals? Here's some more of it.") Because it's still a parade of images, sounds, and scenarios of animals being tortured and killed, and killing for no good reason. Bullet Head (formerly known as De Niro, for the apparent name of its canine monster/hero) is a cinematic mutt, with traces of Reservoir Dogs and Cujo in its lineage -- aspirationally, anyway. But it has none of the impact of the former film or the latter book (or film, for those who found the 1983 adaptation affecting). Essentially, it's a one-location thriller interrupted by flashbacks à la Reservoir, but without that film's brilliant dialogue or memorable characters (or its restraint, which made the bursts of violence in Tarantino's movie so effective). Instead, writer-director Paul Solet tests viewers' patience with a seemingly endless string of rambling anecdotes, almost all of which are pet-themed, then throws in gore, chases, and tons of uses of "f--k." Don't expect any emotional or physical reality here: Characters constantly stop what they're doing, including finding shelter, to speechify, as if this were a canine-themed episode of The Walking Dead. Echoes of Cujo come in the form of the unusually powerful animal -- but these are three career criminals with plenty of bludgeoning/stabbing weapons at hand; why are three grown men so terrified of one badly injured dog?
Solet previously made the very interesting 2009 film Grace -- an original, offbeat horror film. With Bullet Head, he forces the issue in many ways, seemingly trying to inject a horror sensibility into a slow-paced crime drama. Virtually every moment is underscored with hollow atmospheric sounds or music, apparently to try to create tension. It's tiresome. The improbability of the stunts (suddenly there's access to a river inside the building?) badly undermines the chamber-drama feel; the claustrophobic nature of the setting is undercut by action-movie falls and chases. Of the veteran actors present (Brody, Malkovich, Banderas), only Culkin earns our sympathy with a sequence in which a painful memory leads to a fateful decision. Still, bottom line? Most viewers will be openly rooting for the dog.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.