A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that First Kill is a low-budget action thriller starring Bruce Willis and Hayden Christensen. While there's no sex or drinking/drug use, the movie has a lot of violence, much of it gun-related, with shooting, bloody wounds, blood spurts, and characters dying. There's also fighting, a boy being held at knifepoint, a woman getting kidnapped and tied up, and other upsetting scenes. Language is strong, too, with many uses of "f--k" in various permutations, plus "s--t," "bitch," and more. A child is bullied at school; his father attempts to "toughen him up" as a result. The movie briefly addresses bullies/bullying but doesn't offer any thoughtful conclusions. Overall, it's forgettable, and it seems unlikely that many teens will be interested.
What's the story?
In FIRST KILL, Wall Street broker Will (Hayden Christensen) gets a call from his son's school: Young Danny (Ty Shelton) has been beaten up by a bully, again. Will decides to take his family on a trip to his hometown for a little deer hunting. He runs into veteran police officer Howell (Bruce Willis) and is warned about a recent unsolved bank robbery. In the woods, father and son run across two of the robbers, one threatening the other at gunpoint. In an effort to protect his son, Will shoots the man with the gun, who turns out to be a dirty cop. The other man, Levi (Gethin Anthony), winds up kidnapping Danny, and Will is forced into an uncomfortable position between the kidnapper and the cops. Can he protect his family?
Is it any good?
Low-budget action movies don't have to be dull or uninspired, but this one sure is. The actors phone in their performances, playing characters who are blandly unaffected in any way by the silly plot. In First Kill, poor Willis is stuck in a supporting role as a cop with so little motivation it's laughable. But Christensen might have it even worse, giving an overcooked performance as an unlikable dad. When we first see him, he's yelling at someone on the phone, and then his idea to solve his son's bully problem is to "toughen him up," a troubling theme that's never resolved.
All the kidnapping and shooting doesn't seem to affect the characters at all, not even young Danny, who seems just fine after his ordeal. The only interesting part of First Kill is the bond between the kidnapper and the kid, which is the most tender, emotional thing in the movie (it's weirdly similar to the recent Austin Found), but it's so disconnected that it barely counts. Director Steven C. Miller (Extraction) puts it all together with wobbly hand-held cameras and choppy editing, leaving most of the action a forgettable blur. Only an ATV chase through the woods is worth looking at.
Talk to your kids about ...
What does the movie say about bullies? Does it offer any specific, realistic solutions or ideas?
What is the movie's attitude toward guns? Does it glorify them? Does it show responsibility?
How is the kidnapper portrayed in the movie? Could you sympathize with him?
What is the movie's father-son relationship like? Would you consider it healthy? Why or why not?
- In theaters: July 21, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: September 5, 2017
- Cast: Hayden Christensen, Bruce Willis, Gethin Anthony
- Director: Steven C. Miller
- Studio: Lionsgate Premiere
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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