Pickpockets

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Pickpockets Movie Poster Image
Aspiring teen thieves learn the trade; violence, cursing.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 108 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teen characters steal wallets, change purses, and smartphones from unwitting pedestrians. They are taken under the wing of a master pickpocket, who owes money to a corrupt police officer. 

Violence

A lead character shoots and kills another character. A lead character starts a fire in a building where cockfighting is taking place. To distract another pickpocket, a lead character fakes an epileptic seizure. As title suggests, characters are constantly robbing pedestrians, sometimes resorting to violence -- punching, kicking, tackling -- when victim catches them in the act and resists. Knife violence: As punishment for being unable to pay off a debt to a corrupt police officer, the police officer has the man's hand cut across the top. 

Sex

Two teen characters shown having sex, no nudity. 

Language

Regular profanity: "f--k," "a--hole," "bulls--t," "goddammit," "son of a bitch," "f--got." Middle finger gesture. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Marijuana and cigarette smoking, beer and alcohol drinking from adults and teens. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pickpockets is a 2018 drama in which three teens who pickpocket pedestrians on the streets of Bogotá learn from a master. As the title suggests, there are many scenes in which the lead characters steal wallets, change purses, and smartphones out of the pockets of unwitting victims. Sometimes these robberies turn violent when the victims catch the pickpockets in the act and try to fight back with punches and kicks. One character is shot and killed. One of the lead characters provides distraction for another pickpocket by pretending to have an epileptic seizure. A man who owes money to a corrupt police officer is punched, then cut across the hand with a knife; some blood. Lead characters start a fire in a building where cockfighting is taking place. There's regular profanity, including "f--k" and homophobic slurs, as well as marijuana and cigarette smoking and beer and alcohol consumption among teens and adults. One sex scene between teens is shown, with no nudity. In Spanish with English subtitles. 

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What's the story?

Fresh and Doggy are part of a group of teen PICKPOCKETS on the streets of Bogotá. Their actions attract the attention of Chucho (Carlos Bardem), an expert pickpocket from Spain who cannot leave Colombia until he pays his debts to a corrupt police officer. Chucho instructs Fresh and Doggy in the best ways to pickpocket without having to resort to violence. Fresh and Doggy recruit their new friend Juana to join them as they go on a pickpocketing spree, stealing wallets, change purses, and smartphones. Chucho takes a cut of their "earnings" as payment for his training and also because he works "undercover" as a security guard, with access to all the security cameras posted on the streets he watches. As they start to get better and steal more valuables, Fresh, Doggy, and Juana attract the attention of their former pickpocket gang from the old neighborhood they used to work. Despite being told by everyone to stay out of that old neighborhood, Fresh, Doggy, and Juana go rogue and pickpocket wealthy attendees of the opera. This leads to calamitous consequences for all concerned, and after Doggy goes too far and is taken prisoner and Chucho disavows them for going it alone in a neighborhood outside of his jurisdiction, Fresh and Juana must use all of their newfound skills to pull off their most difficult heist yet, rescue Doggy, and make things right with Chucho. 

Is it any good?

This movie somehow manages to pull back from the brink of all things noir cliché as the action barrels along to a riveting climax. At first, Pickpockets suggests it might be the usual pileup of post-Tarantino tropes -- glorified thieves, sardonically clever crime bosses, humor mined out of self-aware nihilism -- but as it progresses, the substance of the story takes over from the expected noir style. There's enough backstory to Chucho (the elder statesman of pickpockets) and Fresh (the leader of the three teen pickpockets under Chucho's tutelage) to make the action something more than the inherent thrill of stealing from unwitting pedestrians -- just enough to make the viewer root for them, warts and all.

And it's because none of the characters are very decent or kind or trustworthy that the ending is as unpredictable as an ending can be these days. Will everyone die? Will there be double-, triple-, quadruple-crosses until only one emerges victorious? Who will make it out of this relatively unscathed, and how? The second half of the movie is everything you would want from an action-driven noir movie, and while it's easy to think otherwise at the beginning, Pickpockets doesn't disappoint. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how crime was shown in Pickpockets. Did the movie glamorize picking pockets, or did it portray the act in a bad light? 

  • How does this movie compare to others centered on criminals? 

  • What do you see as the appeal of movies in which all of the characters make questionable life decisions? 

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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