A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
On the surface, movie has positive message about redemption through faith, but it's delivered in a heavy-handed way that makes the movie feel like a recruiting movie for the church and Army.
Positive Role Models
Mendoza starts out as stereotype: a Latinx character involved with drugs and gang violence. And his redemption, while admirable, comes about through actions of two White characters. Other characters are cardboard cutouts, "types" who seem designed to sell the movie's message.
Violence & Scariness
Drive-by shooting. Major character killed in traffic accident. Gang violence/fights. Baseball bat used as weapon, knife shown, gunshot heard. Rifle practice during basic training. Army recruits fight, wrestle, punch. Character beaten up. Rifles displayed on wall. Arguing. Dialogue about death.
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Uses of "my God" and "oh, Jesus" as exclamations.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A main character is a drug dealer; bags of heroin shown. Drug deals. Stealing and drinking beers. Social drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Counter Column is a faith-based drama about Anthony Mendoza (Chris Gonzales), a Latinx drug dealer who joins the Army, meets two White Christians, and finds redemption through their influence. The narrative plays into "White savior" clichés, and Anthony's characterization includes sterotyping. There's gang-related violence: a drive-by shooting, death, fighting (with baseball bats and knives). Characters also use guns and shoot during boot camp rifle practice. A major character dies, and there are a few scenes of fighting and punching, as well as arguing. Bags of heroin and drug deals are shown, and social drinking is shown more than once. "Jesus" and "God" are both used as exclamations. Sex isn't an issue. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Those already in the choir may applaud this movie's preaching, but for others, it will likely feel like little more than a blatant recruiting tool, both for the chuch and for the Army. The filmmakers behind Counter Column appear uncomfortable with the opening scenes of violence and drug-dealing -- the film feels almost as if it's wincing at the idea of muddying its feet -- although Gonzales at least manages to sell his character. Actually, his performance achieves the opposite of the apparent intended effect. Much like The Grinch, he's more likable as an urepentant drug dealer than he is after he's "reformed." When he suddenly shows up in boot camp without so much as a transition or explanation, it's the first of many head-scratching choices in the movie.
Once he arrives there, the filmmakers are on surer ground: They focus on teaching viewers about the benefits of both faith and the military. But the acting, storytelling choices, editing, etc., continually undermine their efforts. The scene in which Chris and Jason decide to join the Army is so blasé that it makes the head spin. (When Chris mentions the idea to Jason, he replies, "Why not?," and they're off.) Another scene in which a bicyclist -- someone important to both Chris and Jason -- dies in a traffic accident is so awkward and poorly timed that it's more confusing than shocking. Counter Column presumably had good intentions, but the final product seems more like a bad idea.
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.