A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Principal characters are all doomed addicts and drug users, and their ethnicity and circumstances seem to cut across all genders and ages -- it could happen to anyone, is the implicit message. Nobody here makes a move to save themselves either, though their personal goals are empowerment, not the inevitable self-destruction. Ironically, drug dealer-addict Harry disapproves (quite rightfully) his mother taking diet pills.
Violence & Scariness
Shootings, some at close range. Jailhouse beatings. A violent fantasy about stabbing a character through the hand with a fork. One character's arm develops ghastly, oozing wounds from his IV drug-use needle injections. Another is strapped, force-fed, and electrocuted in a hellish medical environment.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief, full-frontal female nudity (in some versions). One character is sexually active with her therapist, her boyfriend, and her pusher. In the unrated version she ultimately descends into full-blown prostitution and performs degrading sex acts -- which aren't shown in clear detail, but you get the idea --- with other women before a live audience. Another couple seen naked having intercourse in profile.
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Frequent use of the F-word/MF-word, the S-word, "bitch," and "ass."
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Products & Purchases
One character's mad devotion to a TV game show is key to the plot, though the show is not real.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Heroin use, cigarette smoking, and abuse of diet pills (amphetamines) are the central subject. Quick, punchy editing, macrophotography, and rhythmic cuts try to convey the jittery exhilaration of the narcotics. It's hardly intended as a favorable portrayal, of course.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that drug abuse permeates this downbeat drama about people in seemingly hopeless descents. As a final descent into degradation one girl performs in a grotesque lesbian stage-sodomy act to continue getting her heroin -- the "edited version" only cuts out a few microseconds of this. Both versions of this film have enough language, explicit sex, violence, blood, and nudity (included female full-frontal) to merit an R. Both versions try with hypnotic imagery and music to capture both the allure and the insidious damage of intoxicants. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
There's no question this is a movie of extremes; it uses punchy editing and camera tricks to convey the rush of drugs of the characters, right down to the cellular level. By the end the protagonists are literally curled in fetal positions, robbed of everything by their habits (bad drugs, bad!). The conundrum for filmmakers trying to depict the seductive power and destruction wrought by drugs is walking that fine line between making "getting high" look too good on one hand, and on the other hand going too far with the Message Stuff and preaching a finger-wagging sermon.
But the skillful, surreal camerawork, and the sympathetic characters -- none of them want to be Scarface, they just want to be happy -- make this more than just the proverbial "classroom scare film." Perhaps the most important story, in fact, is Sarah's, who breaks no law in her addiction to amphetamines (diet pills) but ends up as brain-damaged and ruined as any junkie thanks to an impersonal medical-institutional establishment that hands out pills like candy.
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Our Editors Recommend
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