Inheritance

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Inheritance Movie Poster Image
Overlong psychological thriller has violence, language.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 111 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes importance of family and unconditional support with respect to family -- but that can also mean lying and covering up lies, crimes, and misdeeds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lauren and William are both high-achieving New Yorkers who, despite wealthy backgrounds, have chosen to go into public service. But as movie continues, it's clear that they're each much more calculating and morally corrupt than we originally realize. Their mother is kind and generous and puts her family above everything.

Violence

An emaciated, unkempt prisoner is found in an underground bunker. He's been kept in basically solitary confinement for more than 30 years and is chained around the neck and wrists. Many scenes of someone held at gunpoint. Two flashbacks show a violent vehicular manslaughter and its cover-up. A woman is raped; the rapist is dealt with outside the law. People are shot, kicked, punched. Someone is poisoned, killed. Two characters are shot to death.

Sex

Flashback shows people caressing and kissing. References to a long-term adulterous affair.

Language

Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "whore," and several uses of "shut the hell up," "goddamn," "Jesus Christ" (used as an exclamation), "what the hell," "stupid," and more.

Consumerism

Mostly luxury cars: Mercedes, Range Rover, Bentley, Suburban, Cadillac. Also Apple products: MacBook, iPhone.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Discussion of scotch; flashback shows young men drinking to excess and snorting cocaine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Inheritance is a psychological thriller starring Lily Collins as a wealthy lawyer whose father leaves her a mysterious, life-changing secret in his will. Expect frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "whore," etc.) and a persistent sense of peril. There are also scenes of upsetting violence -- including torture, captivity, and shootings. The violence leads to more than one death. Flashbacks reveal a sexual assault and vehicular manslaughter that have lifelong consequences. Characters drink and snort cocaine in a flashback. Although there's arguably a strong message here about family unity and loyalty, that loyalty can lead to misdeeds, and the overall theme seems to be that rich people know how to cover up their crimes.

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What's the story?

In INHERITANCE, Manhattan District Attorney Lauren Monroe (Lily Collins) is busy with a high-profile case -- bringing down a billionaire Wall Street financier -- and with endorsing her younger brother, William (Chace Crawford), a congressman running a tight reelection campaign. Things take a tragic turn when the Chase siblings' rich, powerful father, Archer Monroe (Patrick Warburton), suddenly dies. During the reading of the will, the family lawyer (Michael Beach) reveals that Archer inexplicably left William $20 million and Lauren only $1 million. But there's also a secret additional inheritance for Lauren: a flash drive and the key to a bunker, where she finds a feral-looking man (Simon Pegg) in chains. The man says his name is Morgan Warner and that Archer has kept him a prisoner for more than 30 years. He promises to tell Lauren the entire story of his capture and imprisonment in exchange for a steak dinner followed by key lime pie. Obsessed with figuring out the truth, Lauren starts neglecting her career, her big trial, and even her husband and young daughter to question Morgan, who knows a lot more about the family's secrets than Lauren does.

Is it any good?

An initially promising premise devolves into a mediocre psychological thriller filled with plot holes and unbelievable storylines; audiences are better off skipping it. The very first thing viewers -- especially New Yorkers -- will scoff at is the ridiculous notion that a barely 30-year-old Lauren could be the elected district attorney of New York (where the real DAs have routinely been elected in their 50s and typically stay in office for decades) and that her younger brother is running for his second term as Congress at age 28 or so. It's extremely difficult to suspend disbelief, and much of Lauren's behavior also feels ludicrous. Collins tries her best, and she's a luminous actor, but she wasn't well cast, and the artificial-sounding dialogue doesn't do anyone any favors.

Pegg's role as the enigmatic Morgan and his interactions with Lauren are off-putting, as is his odd obsession with the key lime pie recipe that he's memorized and repeats like a mantra. No matter how much evidence Morgan presents to Lauren (as if his presence alone isn't evidence of her father's decades of cruelty), she waffles about what she should do, ignoring her important case, her family, and everything else in her life. This is director Vaughn Stein's second feature and screenwriter Matthew Kennedy's first, and their inexperience shows, despite the well-known cast and slick cinematography and editing. Ultimately, though, it's Inheritance's screenplay that's the biggest disappointment, because the story, even with its various twists, just doesn't live up to its potential.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Inheritance. Is it necessary to the story? Does realistic violence have more impact than stylized or over-the-top violence?

  • Discuss the reason that "rich people" are such compelling subjects for psychological thrillers. Why are many audiences so interested in seeing one-percenters deal with (and often get away with) catastrophic situations?

  • Do you consider anyone in the movie a role model? If so, why? What character strengths do they exhibit?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

Themes & Topics

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