The Con Is On

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Con Is On Movie Poster Image
Tiresome caper with language, sex, drugs, and drinking.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Be selfish, take advantage of everyone, and binge drink and/or use drugs while doing so.

Positive Role Models

Characters are selfish, self centered, violent thieves who also binge drink and take drugs, among other questionable behaviors. A nun is a criminal who uses the f-word. A priest has implied sexual relations with a younger male "assistant."

Violence

One of the characters shoots or stabs people to death for the slightest provocation. Fighting with punches, kicks. Slit throats. Characters shot and killed at point-blank range.

Sex

Brief nudity, breasts, as one of the lead characters is shown having a threesome in a flashback scene. An actress who is having an affair with her director repeatedly demands "f--k me" of him. Woman stretches out on a bar and asks her lover to have sex with her. Kissing. Implied sexual relations with a priest and his younger male "assistant." Lead character, when asked to smuggle drugs, says that he has "had so many things shoved up my ass, I might as well get a boyfriend and move to San Francisco."

Language

Nonstop profanity. "F--k" used in practically every scene. "C--t" used in one scene. Also: "s--tloads," "s--t," "p---y," "p-ss," "t-ts," "bastard," "bitch." A woman calls another woman a "revolting slut."

Consumerism

Virgin Airlines and Air France directly referenced in conversation. Characters stay at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the lead characters is constantly binge drinking. Cocaine use in several scenes. Opium smoking in one scene. Cigarette smoking in most scenes. Martini, wine, and cocktail drinking. Character swigs from a bottle of booze while in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Con Is On is a 2018 comedy caper in which a pair of misanthropic con artists (Uma Thurman and Tim Roth) try to pull off a jewel heist to pay back debts owed to a vicious mobster. The attempts at comedy are centered around the boorish behavior of the main characters, who constantly curse ("f--k" being the word of choice), binge drink, use drugs (cocaine, Xanax), and take advantage of everyone around them. The secondary characters are no better, as the main villain kills people at the slightest provocation (shootings, stabbings), a priest appears to be having sexual relations with a much younger (and usually shirtless) man, a nun is fond of saying "f--k," and an actress constantly says "f--k me!" to the director with whom she’s having an affair. There's also brief nudity (breasts) in a flashback scene of a threesome. Cigarette smoking.

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What's the story?

In THE CON IS ON, Harry (Uma Thurman) and Peter (Tim Roth) are escaping London for Los Angeles. They're on the run from a notoriously violent Russian gangster named Irina after Harry took a cut of the money she received after a cocaine deal with a nun and eventually lost it all in poker instead of paying Irina. Upon arrival in Los Angeles, the pair meet their amoral priest friend Sidney (Stephen Fry), who offers them $40,000 if they'll help smuggle a package of opium. Shortly after, Sidney alerts Irina to Harry and Peter's whereabouts, and the two must find a way to come up with the money as soon as possible. Peter's ex-wife Jackie lives a life of luxury with her successful prima donna director husband, and soon the main characters hatch a plot to steal a valuable jewel on a ring that Jackie wears. While Peter tries to get back into Jackie's good graces, Irina gets into town, and Harry must tell Peter that there are other reasons why Irina is so eager to pursue them. Harry and Peter must find a way to steal the ring, escape Irina's psychotic wrath, and escape Los Angeles.

Is it any good?

The stylish and over-the-top comedy caper The Con Is On should work, and yet it doesn't. There's an all-star cast, a "Sure, why not?" kind of premise that sounds like it will be a fun ride for the viewer, and seemingly endless possibilities for comedy. And yet, nothing seems to land. The main characters have the rough glamour of characters from the Oceans franchise, and the caustic snark of Guy Ritchie movies, but they’re not entertaining. The exaggeration grows tiresome shortly after a nun in the opening scene uses the f-word before sampling the contents of a cocaine delivery. Tim Roth plays a cynical and misanthropic binge-drinking British con man who, spoiler alert, isn't a fan of Los Angeles, California. Fair enough, but at least be somewhat original in the observations, rather than resorting to the same old cliches.

Everything is so ridiculous, obnoxious, and run into the ground, it becomes more exhausting than amusing. It's like the filmmakers really, really, really want you to know that these characters aren't supposed to be likable. And if Sofia Vergara's character's constant foul-mouthed expressions of sexual desire for Crispin Glover's character almost gets a laugh the first three times they're spoken, it's a premise that's beyond tedious after the 24th time. That is but one example. If there's any potential to find comedy out of overblown amoral behavior, The Con Is On will milk it for all its worth. It's a frustrating and disappointing watch because the parts never add up to a worthwhile whole.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies with unlikable characters. Why do you think there's an appeal for movies with characters who aren't good people? What are some examples of this, in both comedies and drama?

  • How does the movie try to use shock for the sake of comedy? Does it work? Why or why not?

  • Consider all the bad behavior in this movie -- the binge drinking, the cursing, the drug use, the infidelity, etc. How much of it seemed excessive and gratuitous? Was any of it necessary?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action and comedy

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