The 4th Company

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The 4th Company Movie Poster Image
Extremely violent prison film inspired by true events.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 109 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Corruption rules. Movie reveals that inmates in a Mexican prison are killed when they dare to stand up to the orders of generals and prison wardens. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

Constant violence. Characters murdered by gun, lead character kills an inmate by hitting him repeatedly with a rod. Lead character attempts suicide by swallowing razor blade, is later shown recuperating with long surgical scars down his chest. Inmate who molested a young boy is beaten to death. Inmate badly beaten for stealing eggs, is forced to walk through the prison with his injuries, wearing a sign stating what he did. Photo of bloody dead body. Lead character tortured by getting repeatedly hit on bottoms of his feet with a rod. Death by hanging shown. Prison doctor coerces lead character into having sex with him. Fistfights. Football violence. Prison official pistol-whips a prisoner. 

Sex

Two inmates shown having oral sex as the man receiving oral sex is looking at a pornographic magazine. Kissing between men and women and women and women in a makeshift disco set up for the "4th Company" inmates. Male nudity, nonsexual. Lead character shown from the back masturbating in a restroom. Pictures of naked women from pornographic magazines in the prison cells in the background of some scenes. 

Language

Constant profanity: "motherf----r," "f--k," "a--hole," "s--t," "damn," "f--got." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug and alcohol use throughout. Cocaine use. Inmate forces an older inmate to give him his prescription medication. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The 4th Company is a 2016 film about a football team that forms in a Mexican prison and also enforces the rules inside the prison and commits crimes for a corrupt general. The movie is extremely violent. There are scenes in which characters are beaten to death, characters are shot to death, and characters commit suicide by hanging. The lead character attempts suicide by swallowing a razor blade. A young boy is sexually abused by one of the inmates. Two men are shown engaging in oral sex in their jail cell. The lead character is tortured by getting hit repeatedly on the bottoms of his feet with a rod. The prison doctor coerces the lead character into having sex with him. The lead character is also shown from the back masturbating in a restroom. Drug use includes cocaine use, and one of the inmates forces an older inmate to give up his prescription medication -- presumably amphetamine -- so that the inmate can continue gambling. The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles. 

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What's the story?

In THE 4TH COMPANY, Zambrano (Adrian Ladron) is a convicted juvenile car thief sent to prison. As he tries to adjust to life behind bars, he wants to join "Los Perros," the inmates' American football team. After proving his athleticism and toughness to his teammates, he's brought on, but he soon learns that he's also been brought on for other reasons. "Los Perros," in addition to being the prison's football team, are also "The 4th Company," given carte blanche by the prison authorities to enforce the rules and regulations of the prison in whatever method they see fit; in exchange, they're given tremendous leeway in terms of parties, drugs, and alcohol. The authorities -- including the very corrupt general who agreed to "sponsor" the team -- sends them out of prison in order to commit crimes on the outside, like robbing a bank while pretending to be rebel fighters. In Zambrano's case, it means taking part in a stolen car ring. As the team itself improves and wins on the football field, it's demanded by the general that they "throw" the championship game so that the general can save face. The team must decide if they want to give up the one thing that gave them self-worth in order to continue being beneficiaries of the general's system, or to win the game and risk their future lives. 

Is it any good?

Winner of numerous Ariel Awards -- Mexico's top film prize -- this movie is more of a brutal condemnation of the corruption of the Mexican prison system than it is a "football movie." Instead of rehabilitating the inmates, as so much of the news footage claims (the movie is based on actual events), the inmates are shown to be used as easily sacrificed pawns by the military elite. The constant violence serves to underscore the brutality of the system, making the violence on the football field seem tame by comparison. 

In the world of The 4th Company, there are no "good guys," only the powerful and the powerless. And that news footage, reporting the stated goals of having American football in a Mexican penitentiary, seems to mock the idea expressed in so many Hollywood movies that sportsmanship and teamwork somehow make previously bad or at least troubled youngsters see the error of their ways and chart a new path toward good behavior. Even when the proverbial "scrappy underdogs" win, in this system, they still lose. It's what makes the movie so powerful, unique, and worthy of all the awards it has received. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The 4th Company is inspired by real events. How accurately do you think the movie reflected the story of "Los Perros"? How did the use of actual news footage lend credibility and believability to the movie? 

  • How is the football team, in spite of their horrible actions throughout, made to be "the good guys" toward the end of the movie? Were there any "good guys" in this movie, in the traditional sense? 

  • How does this movie compare to other movies in which football plays a large role in the story? 

Movie details

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