Rising High

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Rising High Movie Poster Image
Drug use, binge drinking, cursing in formulaic crime drama.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 94 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Main character consumed by greed, shows little remorse over the lives he ruined due to his scams. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are consumed by greed, resort to a variety of real estate scams in order to make money. 


Bare knuckle boxing in the middle of an out-of-control party. 


Topless women serve drinks at a wild party within the first minute of the movie. Lead characters frequent a bordello, have affairs with the prostitutes working there. Women shown dancing in lingerie. 


"F--k" used a few times. "A--hole," "s--t," "bitch," "ass," "crap," "piss." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cocaine use throughout the movie. Cigarette smoking. Two lead characters shown at a bar trading off vodka shots while playing a drinking game, become highly drunk. Alcohol drinking at a party. Champagne drinking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rising High (aka Betonrausch) is a 2020 German-language crime drama about the rise and fall of an ambitious young real estate con artist. Within the first minute of the movie, topless women are shown serving drinks at a wild party, and lines of cocaine are snorted by partygoers. Cocaine is the drug of choice of the lead character. Cigarette smoking throughout. Binge drinking, including a scene where the lead character and his soon-to-be business partner try to match each other shot for shot with vodka before drinking straight from the bottle. The two lead male characters are regulars at a bordello, and it's understood that they're both having affairs with two of the prostitutes there. Some profanity, including "f--k" used a few times. 

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What's the story?

In RISING HIGH, Viktor (David Kross) is a young man who has arrived in Berlin with no money or resources, but plenty of charm and resourcefulness. While struggling as a construction laborer and without the proper proof of employment needed to secure a place to live, Viktor manages to get the proper documentation forged under the name "Dirk Diggler," signs the lease on a luxury flat, and proceeds to rent out the flat to the large group of Bulgarian laborers he works with. After that scam is busted when the laborers throw a raucous party, Viktor meets Gerry, who is rougher, older, and married, but shares Viktor's zeal for real estate scams. The pair concoct a scheme in which they go to property auctions and buy buildings with money they don't have, then con innocent prospective buyers into singing fraudulent mortgages. To take this to the next level, Gerry brings in his childhood friend and mortgage broker Nicole. An attraction between Nicole and Viktor soon follows, and soon the two are married and have their first child. With the success comes a party lifestyle of booze, drugs, and women, and soon Viktor's life begins to spiral out of control. As Viktor's ambitions and cocaine addiction continue to grow, he finds himself no longer capable of staying one step ahead of the authorities. 

Is it any good?

This movie is mildly entertaining, but it's ultimately another flashy, unoriginal crime caper. While conning the innocent out of their dreams of home ownership, these charming rogues drink, drug, and womanize their way through the good life, and while the beginning of Rising High tells you how it ends for them, it's easy enough to guess ahead of time that cocaine use and sketchy real estate deals aren't exactly a recipe for a sustainable life. While the flashbacks show how Viktor got to be so obsessed with financial success at any cost, such devices feel as formulaic as every other aspect of the movie.

As is the case in so-so movies like these when (spoiler alert) the main characters aren't killed, the ending makes a choice between cheap cynicism or cheap sentiment. While one hopes for something more original than the two, this opts for one of the above in a way that comes off as lazy and unsatisfying. The acting strikes the right sense of urgency and dry humor throughout, but the story never quite lets them be more than stock antiheroes. And before it gives the audience a chance to really feel anything besides revulsion that these three aren't "beating the system" so much as they are hurting innocent people, the movie immediately flashes off into a glitzy montage replete with "oontz oontz oontz" electronic dance music, drug use, and prostitutes. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies centered on antiheroes. What are some of the qualities that make Viktor an antihero? How does Rising High try to explain how his childhood influenced his behavior? 

  • How is drug and alcohol use shown in this movie? Does the movie show the possible consequences for overindulgence? 

  • What are your thoughts on the ending of the movie? Do you prefer movies to have clear-cut endings or movies that are more open to interpretation?

Movie details

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