A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Son of a Gun is an Australian gangster movie filled with strong, bloody violence, including death and lots of blood. Guns are frequently fired, and there are scenes of men beating up women. Women's breasts and a man's butt are briefly shown, and there's kissing and suggested sex between the two leads on more than one occasion. "F--k" is used almost constantly, practically like punctuation. The main character, who's said to be 19, is seen drinking a beer, a young woman drinks and smokes cigarettes, a minor character is shown to be a drug dealer (pills), and another minor character snorts cocaine. Despite the strong material, it does feel somewhat removed from reality. And while the young character is led down the wrong path, he remains a good person and does what he can to take control of and correct his situation.
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What's the story?
Nineteen-year-old J.R. (Brenton Thwaites) is sent to prison for six months for committing a small crime. While inside, he catches the attention of notorious Australian gangster Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor) when J.R. attempts to defend his meek cell mate. Brendan protects J.R. from a deadly gang of prisoners; subsequently, J.R. becomes part of Brendan's gang, and, when he gets out, a crucial part of a jailbreak. Living the high life, J.R. meets the gangster's moll, Tasha (Alicia Vikander), and unwisely falls in love. Then, a gold heist fails to go as planned, and J.R.'s entire world starts to come crashing down.
Is it any good?
Despite some shortcomings, Son of a Gun is tough and vivid, and it's perfectly enjoyable in the moment. After making prize-winning short films, Australian filmmaker Julius Avery based his first feature film loosely on his own troubled life. The result is fairly conventional, employing all of the usual chestnuts of the gangster genre. The relationships between the three main characters, for example, go all the way back to Gilda (1946) and have been done many times since.
Part of the movie's freshness comes from its Australian setting, which adds a bit of grit where fedoras used to be. McGregor is totally committed to his role, mixing both a threatening vehemence and a kindly sympathy that makes him fascinating, someone to look up to. Thwaites seems a bit too pretty for his role -- he's given a facial scar to make him look tougher -- but he manages the untested innocence that his role requires.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Son of a Gun's violence. Does all the shooting, fighting, blood, and gore help or harm the movie? Is it thrilling or shocking? Is it necessary to tell this story?
Is J.R. an admirable character? Do you think he's intended to seem "cool" to younger viewers?
What 's the appeal of gangster films, and why have they lasted for so many decades?
For kids who love thrills
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