By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Indian gangster gains a conscience; violence, language.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
"It hurts only when it's personal." Home isn't where you are born; it's where you feel alive. Refugees forced to leave home ought to be treated with greater kindness and empathy.
Positive Role Models
Suruli is a violent, irreverent, self-serving, murderous criminal who is occasionally nice to others. He's clever and at times charming, but basically unscrupulous. Plot suggests that he regrets helping a racist British gangster whose business treats mostly Brown immigrants unfairly.
Violence & Scariness
Extremely violent. Shoot-outs between rival smuggling gangs. Men beat each other, kick each other. Many people die bloody deaths by guns, bombs, saber. Underlying story is about White racism in Western countries targeting refugees of color who are forced by wars (often started by Western powers over oil and other resources) to emigrate to the west. When refugees arrive, they are treated to violence, prejudice, disrespect. A violent mob boss drives a white Rolls Royce with a White Power license plate. White anti-immigrant conservative politicians conspire to kill a liberal leader in effort to promote anti-immigrant legislation. Someone points a gun at a man's genitals.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man and woman kiss.
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"F--k," "s--t," "pr--k," "bastard," "screw," "hell," "damn," "piss," and "crap."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Jagame Thandhiram is a 2021 Indian film (in Tamil with English subtitles) about Indian and British gangsters at war in London. The backdrop is a racism-motivated anti-immigration movement in Britain dedicated to either keeping immigrants out or imprisoning them in privately owned detention centers, enriching the White owners. Violence is gory, widespread, and at times gratuitous, including shootings, beatings, bombings, and a saber attack that results in death and lots of blood spatter, making this unlikely fare for kids. Slo-mo mass shootings are part of an aesthetic that glorifies violence and mimics the tone of Bollywood-style dance numbers. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "pr--k," "bastard," "screw," "hell," "damn," "piss," and "crap."
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What's the Story?
In JAGAME THANDIHIRAM, Suruli (Dhanush) is a local Tamil gangster willing to work with any mobster who will pay enough. Although he'll break into joyful dance at a moment's notice, he doesn't hesitate to murder anyone who gets in his way. He seizes the opportunity to work with a racist British gangster called Peter (James Cosmo) and travels to London for a job. Although he doesn't speak English, he sniffs out the workings of a rival guns-for-gold smuggling operation run by India national Sivadoss (Juju George). His plotting sabotages Sivadoss' setup and leads to Sivadoss' bloody murder. A love interest named Atilla (Aishwarya Lekshmi) distracts Suruli but also enlightens him on certain truths: that murderous gangster Sivadoss was using his ill-gotten gains to help immigrants from war-torn countries safely make it to England. Suruli realizes his ignorance about racism and world politics has led him to make things difficult for other people of color and tries to make amends.
Is It Any Good?
At 157 minutes, Jagame Thandhiram is at least an hour too long. The story about a charming, greedy, murderous criminal who gains a conscience far too late meanders through relevant and irrelevant information and plot points. Throughout, there's a comic and irreverent undertone that feels more and more inappropriate as the plot develops, as if the movie is in some sense mocking itself at the same time that it's taking itself too seriously.
The narrative often feels naïve and simplistic. Characters change their minds and philosophies at the drop of a hat, problems are solved lickety-split, someone recovers from near-lethal wounds in an instant, and a looming political issue just goes away. People break into joyful Bollywood dance numbers that have nothing to do with moving the plot along, adding to the general draggy feeling. The plight of immigrants forced to leave homes in war-torn countries is also simplified to tear-jerking dramatic snippets, as if they explained everything. The end is utterly implausible and disappointing, but suggests a sequel may be in the works.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how believable it is that murderous gangster Suruli suddenly becomes empathetic and politically aware. Do the filmmakers convince the audience of a real change in him? Why, or why not?
Suruli and his charm and violence are glorified here. Do you think he seems like an admirable figure? Why, or why not?
Do you think the plot merits the movie's unusual length? Why, or why not?
The gangster who expresses racist views wants to imprison immigrants. He owns "detention centers" for that purpose, institutions that used to be owned by the government. Do you think allowing private citizens to own prisons is a good idea? Why, or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: June 18, 2021
- Cast: Dhanush, Joju George, James Cosmo, Aishwarya Lekshmi
- Director: Karthik Subbaraj
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 157 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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