Tainted Souls

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Tainted Souls Movie Poster Image
Dark Italian drama has violence, sex, cursing.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 101 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Eventually most people pay for their errors.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Carmine is a murderous, drug-dealing thug running an international scam through a fake charity. Mauro loves the money he makes working for Carmine but feels guilty for harm he's done. Marcello is a hopeless, lazy, weak ne'er-do-well. So are Bruno, Attilio. A congressman takes money from drug dealers in exchange for pushing an illegal and fraudulent project through the legislature. A man pays his lover's large debt to a drug dealer.


Drug dealers beat two men who owe them thousands for cocaine. They gleefully stone a man to death -- in slow-motion. A woman commits suicide by turning up the gas on her stove.


Two men touch each other's mouths. A man kisses a woman. He throws her on a couch. She kneels before him. She later speaks of "screwing" him. A woman finds someone's vibrator. A narrator talks about "penetration" with his gay lover. "Gang-bangs" and orgies are mentioned.


"F--k," "s--t," "piss," "bastard," "bitch," "ass," "screw," "poof," "hash," "goddammit," and "chink."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cocaine and marijuana use is frequent. Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. People are seen high and drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tainted Souls (aka Il Contagio) is a 2017 Italian drama about the tragic lives led by marginalized, working-class people who keep making terrible decisions over and over. A woman is married to her childhood friend, frustrated by the fact that he's gay and unemployed. Innocents are defrauded by a high-level drug dealer using a charity to steal millions. Jobless men go into hock to violent drug dealers. They are beaten by the dealers. One man is stoned to death. A woman commits suicide by turning up the gas on her stove. Frequent cocaine use is shown, as is pot smoking, drinking, and cigarette smoking. No sex is shown, but heterosexual couples are seen kissing and a gay couple is seen touching each other's faces. A woman finds someone's vibrator. A narrator talks about "penetration" with his gay lover. "Gang-bangs" and orgies are mentioned. "F--k," "s--t," and gay and Asian slurs are also used, among other curse words.

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What's the story?

TAINTED SOULS takes place in a Roman suburb where working-class people struggle to make ends meet. A pensioner lives with her criminal son, Attilio (Daniele Parisi), who doesn't have the brains to straighten out. Marcello (Vinicio Marchioni) is married to Chiara (Anna Foglietta) but is unemployed and usually out with his gay lover, Walter (Vincenzo Salemme), a lonely professor. Mauro (Maurizio Tesai) has just moved into the building with his wife, who has no idea he's a drug dealer working for scam artist Carmine (Nuccio Siano), who is trying to raise millions for a fraudulent charity. As Mauro watches, Carmine's gang beats Marcello and Attilio for owing thousands for cocaine. Mauro suggests Carmine stop short of murder, in the hope they'll pay their debts. Mauro then befriends Marcello, but in exchange for the cushy life Carmine provides, Mauro ends up betraying his friend. Drunk, high, and angry, he turns himself in to the police.

Is it any good?

This is a seemingly high-minded stab at socially relevant drama. But it stumbles slowly and mysteriously from one marginal character to another, without establishing who or what Tainted Souls is actually about, leaving us to care for no one at all. Marcello is broke but he refuses to get a job, so it's tough to empathize with him. His wife is ill but he cheats on her. Attilio is amoral and selfish. Bruno is a wife-beater. Mauro is the only one with the brains to be a better man but gives up his humanity in exchange for promises of riches, and he presumably does this because he grew up poor. Drug use is rife and so is criminality. It's a surprise when a narrator tries to persuade us at the end that one of the biggest liars in the movie is a great guy. Only older teens will comprehend most of the issues raised here, but the uneven script, pacing, and editing will probably lose them early on.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how one mistake in life can snowball into other larger mistakes. How does Tainted Souls compare selling drugs and using drugs? Is one just as bad as the other?

  • How does this movie show the way addiction can ruin lives?

  • Do you think this movie tries to suggest that some criminals have some decency in them? What scenes indicate that?

Movie details

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