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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Friendship should take into account compassion and empathy for people's traumatic past. Friendship means supporting one another (although the friends here try to accomplish that through illegal, violent means). Showcases complexity of human life, particularly lives of people often shunned by society due to their status, class, race. Complex messages about influence of video games.
Positive Role Models
Calvin, Nicky, and Jesse are friends who do their best to stick together and make life better for one another amid heartache and tragedy. But they try to improve their lives by finding power through self-destructive behavior. Greg tries to make amends for his time in prison by living peacefully, constructively. He acts as a source of wisdom for the group, particularly Calvin and Jesse.
Violence & Scariness
Police brutality, including murder. Rape with a wine bottle. Sexual abuse/exploitation. Mention of abuse and neglect; mention of a gun. People (both gangs and individuals) violently beat others, commit murder. A home and a video store are trashed. A character gets hit with a shoe. Violence is sometimes portrayed in Grand Theft Auto style, including a character imagining a police helicopter blowing up and a character getting hit by a car.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A character mentions an erection and sex. Suggestive dancing. Off-screen oral sex. Brief scene of sex in a car with partial nudity (bra shown).
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Frequent use of words including "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "ass," "bulls--t," "bitches," "dumbass," and "hell." Middle-finger gesture. Exclamatory use of "oh God," and "for God's sake." Raciist slurs such as "cracker," "White trash," and "nigga." A character is described disparagingly as being "special needs." A woman is described as "juicy booty."
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Products & Purchases
Grand Theft Auto-style video game graphics. A character makes a rap using the Little Einsteins theme song. Slurpees are mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mention of prescription medication and jokes about growing weed and getting high. A bag of pills and beer bottles are shown. Characters smoke cigarettes, take pills, and drink.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Gully is a mature, moody, experimental drama about teenage friends Calvin (Jacob Latimore), Nicky (Charlie Plummer), and Jesse (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) who try to make their adult lives as good as possible despite past trauma. But to do so, they pursue over-the-top, video game-style revenge against the society that failed them. Expect lots of strong language, including both swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more) and racist slurs. There are also scenes of intense violence, with fights, police brutality, rape, and murder. Characters take drugs, smoke, and drink; sexual content includes off-screen oral sex and sex in a car with partial nudity. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Nabil Elderkin's intense drama advances the subgenre of telling stories about the people who live in South Los Angeles by diving deep into its characters' humanity. It feels like a new take on the "inner city" dramatic film subgenre popularized by John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood. The film teeters on going overboard with its stylistic choices, but its main conceit -- showing violence through a video game-style lens -- offers a meta-commentary on young people who've been influenced by violent games. They're intended as entertainment, but for Calvin, Jesse, and Nicky, games are emotional outlets, as well as models for how to see the world. This leads to the friends deciding to bring game-style violence into real life, making real the revenge they act out during their gaming sessions.
But Gully isn't looking to spread a message about the dangers of violent games -- it's more about showcasing the complexity of human life, particularly the lives of people who are often shunned by society due to their status, class, and race. Everyone deserves understanding, compassion, and empathy, and the film makes this point by showing us its characters' traumatic inner worlds. The three main characters' emotional wounds -- from gang violence, police brutality, kidnapping, and sexual abuse -- bond them to each other (and to viewers). But Greg is unique in that, while he was also traumatized by gang violence -- particularly because of his own involvement in it -- his humanity is shown through his wisdom and his genuine kindness. He shows us that people who've been in prison aren't simply "criminals." Instead, the formerly incarcerated are humans like the rest of us: multilayered, complex, and bursting with emotional depth. Indeed, the emotional depth in this movie is hard to ignore, and the characters do resonate. Yes, the film could have focused more on how each character could have been redeemed, instead of just one. And seeing two key characters meet tragic ends is expected, but still sad. The film's end may lead audiences to ask themselves how they could be wrongly judging others' actions, without thinking about the experiences that led them to that point.
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.