Small Crimes

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Small Crimes Movie Poster Image
Bleak, violent thriller with cursing, addiction.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

Not yet rated

A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

Troubled, amoral people wreak havoc on those who love them. Given circumstances and personal character traits, redemption isn't always possible; families must sometimes accept that truth.

Positive role models & representations

Despite protestations of wanting to change his life, protagonist continually makes bad choices; he seems incapable of acting in moral, responsible way, dragging down everyone who cares about him. His parents, having given up on him long ago, still display a shred of hope, which is short-lived. Law enforcement officials are played as easily corruptible. Ethnic diversity.


Bloody, vicious action throughout. Multiple violent deaths. Fist fights, knifings, kicks to the groin, gunplay, tasers, slashing to the face and throat with box cutter, machine gun fire, a fatal car accident. Aftermath of the action scenes is exceptionally brutal. Likable characters are killed.


Kissing, foreplay, and after-sex scenes. Strip club with pole dancers. A bare-breasted prostitute is seen. A woman tries to seduce the protagonist, starting to undress.


Frequent cursing and obscenities: countless uses of "f--k" in many forms, "s--t," goddamn, "p---y," "turd," "scrotum," "pr--k," and one use of the "N" word.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Drinking and drunkenness in numerous scenes; cocaine is used. Main character has ongoing substance abuse issues that he cannot control. 

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.

User Reviews

Adult Written byJamie L. May 6, 2017

Great movie

I'm writing this because I believe people are way over protecting their kids and it's ridiculous. I watched the shining when I was 7 years old and whi... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

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? 

Movie details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love thrills

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate