Drunktown's Finest

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Drunktown's Finest Movie Poster Image
Strong empathy, messages in mature Native American drama.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 94 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Lessons aren't definitively learned, but as the movie ends, characters have started down the road toward positive change. Themes include responsibility, thinking of others, appreciating yourself for who you are, and connecting with family. Little moments of compassion, empathy, forgiveness, and understanding are sprinkled throughout.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A character learns to become more responsible and think about his family. Another finds that connecting with family helps with the nightmares she's been having. A transgender character lives in a judgment-free home with her grandparents, though she makes a living selling her sexual services. She dreams of "fitting in" and eventually learns to accept herself for who she is. Other characters, such as a tribal medicine man, show admirable traits.


A man slaps a child in the face. Guns are shown and sometimes fired, but no one is shot. Fistfights, with punching and slamming, and bloody noses.


A transgender character sells her sexual services for money. A client asks to "suck" her; his head is seen moving up and down in her lap while she moans. She's shown in bed with a client after an encounter. She kisses someone at a party; he freaks out when he touches her and discovers her gender status. Her website is shown, as are some of her messages, which are filled with innuendo and suggestion. Women in bikinis pose for a sexy calendar. A man ogles a woman's cleavage. Some spoken innuendo.


Strong language throughout includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "damn," "ass," "c--k," "bitch," "faggot," and "swear to God." Also a middle-finger gesture.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character is stumbling drunk; he urinates on the side of a building and hits a cop. In a later scene, he drinks shots while playing a drinking game at a party. Though he drinks heavily in two scenes, he doesn't appear to have an addiction problem. A man gives a young boy a sip of beer. Alcoholism is referenced.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Drunktown's Finest is a drama about three young Native American characters and their struggles. One of the characters is transgender (played by a real-life transgender actress) who works selling sexual favors. No nudity is shown, but there's strong sexual suggestion and innuendo, including simulated oral sex. A man kisses the transgender woman at a party and flips out when he discovers the truth. A man gives a young boy a sip of beer and slaps him, and there's punching and fighting, with some blood shown. Guns are shown and fired. Language is very strong, with many uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "bitch" and "c--k." Heavy drinking is shown, with characters stumbling drunk. Amid all of the mature material, though, the movie has worthy messages about body image and learning responsibility and self-respect.

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What's the story?

In Dry Lake, New Mexico, three Navajo characters are struggling. "Sick Boy" (Jeremiah Bitsui) is about to leave for the Army to support his pregnant wife (Elizabeth Frances), but he can't seem to keep himself from drinking and getting into trouble. Nizhoni (Morningstar Angeline Wilson) lives with her adoptive white Christian parents and is going to college, but she wants to learn more about her real family. And Felixia (Carmen Moore) is a transgender woman living with her grandparents and earning money turning tricks; she dreams of being a model for the annual Women of the Navajo calendar. Eventually all of the characters reach turning points and must decide who they are and where they're going.

Is it any good?

DRUNKTOWN'S FINEST has some awkward, amateur moments here and there, mostly in some of the line readings and in some of the generic plot setups and payoffs. But writer-director Sydney Freeland (making in her feature debut) makes her passion deeply felt, and it's very refreshing to see the lives of Native Americans portrayed onscreen with such sympathy. It's easy to forgive the movie its shortcomings and tumble headfirst into the characters' lives.

The movie has a languid, hazy feel that allows for little moments spent with the characters, getting to know them. Bitsui, who had a supporting role on Breaking Bad, fares the best in his performance. Wilson has a lovely, fresh-faced innocence, and Moore -- who's transgender in real life -- brings an appealing combination of self-awareness and self-value to her role. Overall, it's a goodhearted movie that you want to root for.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the drinking in Drunktown's Finest. How is it portrayed? What makes the characters drink? Are there realistic consequences for their drinking?

  • How is the transgender character treated in the movie? How does she view herself? How is she viewed by other characters? Does she have body image issues?

  • How much violence is shown? Does it seem necessary or excessive? How does its impact compare to what you might see in a thriller or horror movie? Which has more impact, and why?

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