Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Hellion Movie Poster Image
Wounded characters, iffy behavior in gritty, powerful drama.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 94 minutes

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

Positive Messages

The movie makes the point that families ought to stay together and help each other, though it demonstrates this idea in a negative way, by watching the family fall apart. Many of the characters behave poorly, but there are always consequences for their actions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are all dealing with pain and loss without much guidance or help, so they tend to act out in negative and irrational ways. The characters are sympathetic, but their behavior isn't admirable.


The movie climaxes with a horrifying incident involving young teens and a gun; the gun is fired, and one of the teens is shot. Young teens also vandalize a truck, smashing it with baseball bats and painting it; later, they encourage a younger boy to set fire to a pile of wooden pallets. A group of grown-ups encourages a 13-year-old boy to handle a gun.


Young teens reference a "naked magazine" and ogle several teen girls in bikinis. One kid makes a lewd comment, and the others rebuke him for it.


Language is strong but not constant; young teens are sometimes heard swearing. "F--k" is used.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The father is dealing with his grief through drinking. Though it's not suggested that he's an alcoholic, he's definitely a problem drinker. A social worker comes to the house and finds two boys home alone in a kitchen littered with empty beer bottles.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hellion is an intense drama about a family torn apart by tragedy. Upsetting scenes show a 13-year-old boy venting his anger and frustration through vandalism, as well as influencing his 10-year-old brother. There's also some disturbing gun violence and a shooting involving several young teens. Characters use strong language, including "f--k," and an adult character drinks heavily -- though the movie suggests that he's dealing with pain rather than suffering an addiction. There's some minor innuendo as some teen boys encounter a gang of bikini-wearing teen girls. Though the characters are young and the movie could inspire discussions with families, much of the material is just too mature for younger viewers.

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What's the story?

In a blue-collar Texas town, 13-year-old Jacob (Josh Wiggins) has been getting into trouble lately. And the last time, his 10-year-old brother, Wes (Deke Garner), unexpectedly tagged along. The boys' mother died recently, and their father, Hollis Wilson (Aaron Paul), hasn't been handling it well: He's been drinking and spending time trying to fix up a beach house rather than being around for the boys. Jacob finds an outlet in motocross racing, but the authorities take Wes away and place him with Hollis's sister-in-law, Pam (Juliette Lewis). Can this torn-up family ever find each other again?

Is it any good?

The third feature by writer/director Kat Candler, HELLION is a sensitive, soulful character drama with great sympathy. It doesn't judge any of its characters. Jacob is first seen vandalizing a truck, Hollis is a drunk who neglects his kids, and Pam won't let Wes return to his father, but Candler understands each of them -- their motivations, their worries, their fears, and their flaws -- and they emerge as beautifully, heartbreakingly human. Performances, especially by newcomer Wiggins, are exceptionally strong.

Candler's filmmaking benefits from the film's strong small-town, working-class atmosphere, with its run-down, vacant lots and speed metal music. But this approach also applies to her storytelling, which is a bit lax, and more reliant on moods than on logic. In spite of the honest, realistic characters, many scenes play out through happenstance; Hellion could have been better shaped. But at the end, it's hard not to be moved by these characters, their pain, and their love.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Hellion's violence. What draws these young characters toward destroying things and playing with guns? Do you think the consequences of their actions are realistic?

  • What draws the father to drinking? How is the way he deals with pain different from the way his sons handle it?

  • The youngest boy is seen reading The Swiss Family Robinson. What's the significance of that story?

  • How does riding motocross help Jacob? What other examples of constructive outlets are there in the movie?

Movie details

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