A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Working for the common good, helping others.
Positive Role Models
Barley is cynical and self-absorbed, motivated by a sense of duty to help those who need his expertize but then also by love. Katya bravely puts herself in danger in order to try and save others.
The main characters are predominantly White and male. The female lead is Russian but played by a non-Russian actor. More than one language spoken.
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Violence & Scariness
Reference to assassination. One mild scuffle. A murder is implied.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Reference to "screwing." Characters appraised by their appearance. Character appears with their shirt open. Light-hearted reference to masturbation. A character showers behind a curtain. Kissing.
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Language used includes "bloody," "ass," "crap," "arse," "hell," "f---ing," "d--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," and "bastards." "Jesus Christ" used as an exclamation. "Frump" used to describe a woman.
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Products & Purchases
Taking place against the backdrop of the fall of the Soviet Union, there is some discussion of Russians' emerging freedom of choice.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. This includes various intelligence agents drinking on the job, including in their offices. Main character drinks often but not noticeably to excess. References to getting drunk and being hungover.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Russia House is a slow-paced spy drama based on a John le Carré novel with strong language throughout. Expat British publisher Barley Blair (Sean Connery) is enlisted by British and American intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of a manuscript by a Russian author containing state secrets. Barley isn't particularly sympathetic but does as he's asked, with his loyalties slightly obscured. However, Katya (Michelle Pfeiffer), the Russian woman with whom Barley must work with -- and who becomes his love interest -- does work tirelessly to defend her country and the world. There is very little diversity and while Pfeiffer and Klaus Maria Brandauer, who plays Dante, are not Russian themselves, they and other Russian characters do speak the language. Sex and violence are only referenced in very mild terms. But there is frequent swearing, some of it strong, including variations on "f--k." Characters drink and smoke but no drunkenness is depicted despite references to being hungover and drinking to excess. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
An unconvincing love story wrapped inside a spying drama that's as gray as a Moscow winter skyline, this John le Carré adaptation is slow, tedious, and instantly forgettable. With its stilted script and direction, perhaps The Russia House's main fault is that it does too good a job of portraying the long-winded dreariness of the bureaucracy behind state-sponsored intelligence. Connery has enough charm and glint to make Barley a presence whenever he's on screen. But becoming smitten with a woman half his age feels like very old and not particularly interesting news. This is hardly James Bond coming out of retirement, more a story with a male gaze that could do with updating the prescription of its bifocals.
Thankfully, Pfeiffer also has enough charisma to make Katya more interesting than just the foil for Barley that she appears to be on page. Their romance does add some credible complications to the mystery of whose side everybody is actually on, but it remains tawdry and predictable, robbing the movie of any real finale. While the location shoots in Russia were remarkable at the time for a Hollywood production, the rest of what's on-screen is the cinematic equivalent of slowly being frozen solid. There are plenty of memorable le Carré adaptations. The Russia House isn't one of them.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.