By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Routine but decent gangster movie has violence, language.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Moments of integrity and bravery, but also a very mixed message about crime: It's shown as having both a downside (lack of family life, people you can trust) and an upside (power, money). No significant regret for a life of crime.
Positive Role Models
Movie acknowledges that Lansky was a criminal but also admires him in many ways, notably his intelligence/cleverness (his success in business, etc.) and his integrity (standing up to Nazis, refusing to rig slot machines, etc.). He's hardly a role model, but he does model some behavior that's worth noticing.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of killing. Characters are shot in the head, with blood spray. Brutal punching, kicking. Gouging eyes, blood shown. Stabbing multiple times with knife. Slamming head on desk. Bloody corpses, hung up. Character argues with and assaults wife. Person gets electric shock therapy. Person tied up. Violent descriptions in dialogue. Nazi imagery. Arguing. Temper tantrums.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing. Woman in bikini.
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Strong, frequent language, including "f--k," "c--ksucker," "s--t," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "hell," "goddamn," and "balls," plus exclamatory use of "God/oh my God," "Jesus."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking in nightclubs (martinis, etc.). Cigarette smoking. Couple shares bottles of beer. References to selling drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lansky is a crime drama about real-life gangster Meyer Lansky (played by John Magaro in flashback and by Harvey Keitel in wraparound sequences). There's lots of violence: Many characters are killed, and you can expect to see guns and shooting, brutal punching, beating, kicking, blood sprays, head-slamming, eye-gouging (with blood shown), bloody corpses, a woman being assaulted, someone receiving electric shock therapy, Nazi imagery, and more. Language is also strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "c--ksucker," and more. One character notices another lounging by a pool in a bikini; they later kiss. Adults drink socially in nightclubs and smoke cigarettes, and drug dealing is mentioned. Much of the material is overly familiar (in fact, Lansky's life previously inspired a same-named 1994 movie starring Richard Dreyfuss), but there's enough here to make it worth a look for mature viewers.
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Based on 1 parent review
Historically accurate and dark action thriller
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What's the Story?
In LANSKY, writer David Stone (Sam Worthington) is broke and estranged from his wife and family. So when he gets an offer to tell the life story of famous gangster Meyer Lansky (Harvey Keitel), he can't say no. They meet in a diner, and the story starts to unfold, beginning with Lansky's childhood -- and finding the angle behind a dice game. Soon the young Lansky (John Magaro) has developed a gambling empire, run by himself and the "muscle," Ben (don't call him "Bugsy") Siegel (David Cade). As the story grows more and more incredible -- including Lansky attacking Nazi rallies, aiding the U.S. government, starting a multicultural crime syndicate, and opening a casino in Cuba -- Stone realizes that the story isn't yet over. The FBI is still after Lansky, seeking a supposedly missing and hidden $300 million.
Is It Any Good?
Not much different from the plethora of gangster movies that populated theaters in the 1990s, this drama gets by on Keitel's impressive performance, as well as on a handful of surprising story twists. The entire setup and layout of Lansky is old hat (in fact, Lansky's story was previously told in the 1994 movie ... Lansky), and scenes of gangsters violently intimidating people, struggling with eroding personal relationships, and putting the hurt on double-crossers are wearily familiar. The 1981 wraparound/interview sequences are likewise a creaky old device, but they're still where the movie comes to life. Keitel -- who's a veteran of this world, having played Mickey Cohen alongside Ben Kingsley's Meyer Lansky in 1991's Bugsy -- is thoroughly commanding as the older Lansky, both intimidating and magnetic.
Additionally, by giving Stone his own strengths and weaknesses, the scenes doubly resonate. When he's not talking to Lansky, Stone guiltily flirts with Maureen (Minka Kelly), a woman he spots lounging by the hotel pool; he quickly, innocently breaks all of Lansky's rules, generating a certain amount of tension. Coupled with earlier scenes of Lansky standing up to Nazis or refusing to rig the slot machines in his casinos, this makes Lansky seem almost surprisingly benevolent. Earlier gangster movies may have been romanticized cautionary tales, but Lansky actually includes elements that are, ironically, admirable.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Lansky's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect?
Are alcohol, smoking, and/or drugs glamorized here? Does the opulent nightclub atmosphere make them seem cool? Are there consequences for substance use? Why does that matter?
What are Lansky's flaws and positive qualities? Is he admirable? Do you consider him a role model?
Why are we so often interested in stories about gangsters?
Does Lansky seem to have any regrets at the end of his life? Did he have any remorse for all the things he'd done? Do you have regrets or remorse for anything you've done?
- In theaters: June 25, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: June 25, 2021
- Cast: Harvey Keitel, Sam Worthington, Minka Kelly
- Director: Eytan Rockaway
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence, language and some sexual references
- Last updated: January 29, 2023
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