Term Life

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Term Life Movie Poster Image
Bungled scenes, miscast actors in failed thriller.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Reminds us that daughters spending actual time with their fathers is better than simply being "supported" (although if the father is a criminal, this may not be such a good thing).

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a criminal who does many wrong things and faces no repercussions -- and he seems to be dragging his daughter down the same path in the end.


Guns and shooting, blood spurts, dead bodies. Exploding cars. Chase scenes. Punching, fighting. Arguing. A teen girl fires a gun.


Brief discussions of teen sex. A couple enters a hotel room; they kiss and make happy, moaning noises (and are then interrupted).


Many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," and "douchebag," plus "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A teen character has been arrested for drinking. She drinks more (off screen) during the movie's first half. A supporting character is the head of a drug cartel. Cigar smoking, swigging from a flask, background cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Term Life is a crime drama about a criminal (Vince Vaughn) who bonds with his teen daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) while on the run from a drug lord. Things get violent: Viewers will see guns and shooting (including by a teen), several dead bodies, a little blood, punching and fighting, car and foot chases, and arguing. There's brief discussion about teen sexuality, and adults are shown kissing and in the early throes of passion. The teen character has been arrested for drinking and accepts a beer from another teen (but she's never actually shown drinking). A supporting character is a drug lord, and there's some background smoking. Language includes several uses of "f--k." Teen viewers may be attracted to the well-known cast, but rest assured, all of these actors have been better elsewhere.

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What's the story?

Nick Barrow (Vince Vaughn) is a criminal who works designing heists and selling them to others to actually pull off. Unfortunately, his latest job was taken on by a notorious drug dealer's son; there was a double-cross, the son was killed, and Nick is blamed. The drug lord (Jordi Molla) quickly zeroes in on Nick's estranged daughter, Cate (Hailee Steinfeld), as a way to settle the score. So Nick kidnaps Cate and goes into hiding while cooking up a plan. To make matters worse, the heist also involved a crooked cop (Bill Paxton), who's also gunning for Nick. It will take everything Nick has to survive this mess.

Is it any good?

This labored, failed thriller feels like a collection of odd puzzle pieces that don't fit but have been nonetheless forced together. Even the great cast members seem squeezed into the wrong roles. Vaughn, sporting a distractingly bad haircut, is denied a sense of humor. He and Steinfeld can't generate any kind of father-daughter bond, and even a reunion between Swingers' buddies Vaughn and Jon Favreau passes by cluelessly.

Paxton, meanwhile, is stuck in a role that requires him to scowl all the time and is far below his level of intelligence. Characters appear and disappear in a strangely random fashion, very little makes sense, and the action is confusing. If TERM LIFE was supposed to provide thrills -- or at least some interesting ideas and warm fuzzies -- it instead mostly generates confusion, frustration, and a strong, fermented sense of an opportunity wasted. Former child actor Peter Billingsley (A Christmas Story) -- a protege of Favreau's -- directed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Term Life's violence. How much of it is necessary to the story? What effect does it have? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • What's the father-daughter relationship in the movie like? How is it similar or different from your own relationship -- or relationships you've seen, either in real life or in the media?

  • How is teen drinking portrayed in the movie? Is it glamorized? Why does that matter?

  • Does the movie end on a positive note? What has the teen girl learned about a life of crime? Is there a "lesson" here?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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