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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Coin Heist is a 2017 Netflix Original Movie based on a book about teens that hack and break into the US Mint in order to save their prep school from bankruptcy. Basically it's equal parts heist and coming-of-age movie. While the lead characters aren't terrible role models per se, and they do learn to see each other as individuals rather than cliquish stereotypes, they're still committing a serious crime, no matter how noble their intentions might be. Even as the heist is planned and unfolds, the movie shows or mentions coming-of-age issues such as teen drinking at parties, drug use, parents who aren't exemplary role models, cheating, falling in love .The movie also raises a question very similar to the question raised in the classic novel, Crime and Punishment: Is it okay to commit a crime if the crime can make the world a better place? This question is raised not only through the heist, but also as one of the characters discusses how he was arrested for making fake IDs -- not so underage kids can drink in bars, but for immigration cards so his neighbors would stop getting persecuted by the authorities. There's also some profanity ("s--t," "d--k") and verbal bullying.
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What's the story?
In COIN HEIST, hard times have befallen a Pennsylvania prep school when it's discovered that the headmaster embezzled millions of dollars. Now, the headmaster is in prison, and the school is too broke to fund social clubs or even hold a formal dance anywhere else but the lunch room. But after a field trip to the US Mint in which it's revealed how misprint coins go for millions of dollars in auctions, four students -- popular girl Dakota (Sasha Pieterse), slacker musician Jason (Alex Saxon) (whose father was the headmaster), computer nerd Alice, and athlete/mechanic Max (Elijah Boothe) -- decide to band together, each for their own reasons, to hack and break into the US Mint and create their own misprint of the Michigan quarter, and sell it in auctions and use the money to save their school from going under. Along the way, as their plan hits snarls and as they avoid suspicious teachers hot on their trail, these four grow closer and start to see each other not as their cliques, but as unique individuals. They must find a way not to get caught by authorities of any kind, manage this feat while they're supposed to be at the formal dance, and convince anyone who might think they're just criminals that their motives are altruistic.
Is it any good?
With the right attitude and manageable expectations, this is an entertaining movie that's equal parts heist and coming-of-age tales. It also manages to ask a similar question raised in Dostoevski's Crime and Punishment: Is it permissible to commit a crime if the good resulting from that crime has the potential to far outweigh the bad? That question alone makes the suspension of disbelief required to swallow such a ludicrous premise a little bit easier. It also manages to balance the differences in style and tone between when this is a heist movie of teens sneaking around the US Mint, and when it's a coming-of-age movie of teens revealing that they're more than the cliquish stereotypes they're known for being in their school.
And the story itself remains interesting enough to go beyond any and all cliches inherent in both of the genres the movie operates within. It's easy to get wrapped up in wondering if or how they're going to pull off robbing the US Mint, and how, if they do somehow succeed, they will use the anticipated money to save their school. Or will they trade in their prep school uniforms for orange prison jumpsuits? There's enough suspense in these questions to maintain interest, and enough teen drama and deeper themes to prevent Coin Heist from losing any momentum.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Coin Heist was based on a novel of the same title. What would be the challenges in adapting a novel into a movie?
In what ways is this movie similar to and different from other "heist" movies, and how does it compare to other "coming-of-age" movies?
This movie explores the idea of whether or not it's permissible to commit a serious crime if, by doing so, it's ultimately for a higher good. What are the ways in which this movie explores this theme throughout the movie?
- On DVD or streaming: January 6, 2017
- Cast: Alex Saxon, Sasha Pieterse, Elijah Boothe
- Director: Emily Hagins
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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