A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Small Crimes, a Netflix Original movie, is a stylish, very violent crime drama that follows an ex-cop upon his release from prison, six years after he committed a horrific crime. Viewers can expect brutal killings, grisly "aftermath" sequences, and all manner of weaponry (machine gun, box cutter, butcher knife, suffocation, pistols). Fights are fierce and frequent. Obscenities and swearing are pervasive: "s--t," "----y," "goddamn," "pr--k," many variations of "f--k" and one use of the "N" word. Characters kiss, engage in foreplay and post-sexual embraces. A scene takes place in a strip club (with pole dancing), and a prostitute shows her bare breasts. The leading character, played by Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, a popular actor from the HBO’s Game of Thrones, is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who lapses early in the story. Drinking and drunkenness occur, and cocaine is used. There are moments of grisly black humor -- the excessive violence and sheer viciousness of some of the players is purposefully exaggerated at times -- which only serves to up the grim ante. Intense, scary, and bloody, this film is definitely not for kids.
What's the story?
After six years in prison, ex-cop Joe Denton (Coster-Waldau) believes he's a changed man in SMALL CRIMES. At last free of his addiction to drugs and alcohol, and having served his time for a violent crime, he has every intention of renewing his role as father to his two children and making a new and better life. His parents, Joe Sr. (Robert Forster) and Irma (Jacki Weaver) are reluctant to believe him. They've been here before; their trust has been shattered too many times. And, Joe's ex-wife has put great distance between them; she warns him to keep away. No one's happy to see him at his old police job either, especially the man who was the victim of Joe's drug-fueled attack. But one corrupt, long-time colleague (Gary Cole) has an offer. If Joe can clean up some loose ends, take care of a still-existent threat to both men's futures, he promises to help Joe get a chance with his kids. The "still existent threat" is a dying felon, who just may want to clear his conscience and a measure of payback. Events intensify as the dying man’s son becomes a fearsome adversary. The deck is stacked against Joe Denton, even when he meets Charlotte (Molly Parker), a sympathetic nurse who may be the one person who has his back. Joe's unerring ability to make bad choices and his self-destructive behavior find him in a series of violently escalating encounters that imperil the last chance he may have for redemption.
Is it any good?
A sly, slow reveal of both plot and character, along with stellar performances by featured actors as well as the lead, bring surprises and intensity to an untraditional redemption story. It takes a while before the audience grasps the complexity of Joe Denton's character, as well as the events of his past. There are clues, of course, and, with hindsight, the viewer sees how skillfully they were laid into the early scenes in Small Crimes. What may at first feel spare, even somewhat incomprehensible, becomes clear exactly when director Evan Katz and his team decide to let us in. Katz has assembled a wonderful cast; even the smallest parts are notable. It's a very violent movie. People are stabbed, slashed, and gunned down with bloody fury. And, if you're looking for somebody to root for it's slim pickings in this crowd. No kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which characters, if any, have the viewers' sympathy in Small Crimes. Who were you rooting for at the beginning of this movie? When, if ever, did your sympathies change? By the end, was there anyone left for whom you could root? Which character(s) and why?
What is the meaning of the term "black comedy?" Small Change has been called a black comedy. Do you think this is an accurate characterization? In what ways, if any, could Small Change be considered funny? Are there scenes so over-the-top in violence that audiences might find them comically outrageous? Why do you think people might laugh in those instances?
How did Joe's behavior affect the people in his life he professed to love? Both his ex-wife and his parents found themselves at risk if they continued to maintain their relationships. Did you agree with their behavior toward him? In which early scene did the filmmakers let you know the inevitably self-destructive path Joe would take?
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