By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Lots of blood in slightly better-than-average Willis flick.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Amid all of the bloody, gory, violent mayhem, the movie does celebrate making a hard choice and doing the right thing.
Positive Role Models
Vanessa and Gabriel are likable, and they try to stand up to the villains, but they're not very admirable. They're steeped in violence and, in Gabriel's case, crime. Their main job during the movie is to survive a massive shoot-out.
Vanessa is a strong, very capable woman with agency, even though she does get put in a position that requires her to be rescued by a man. But there's not much diversity within the main cast, and Latino characters are generally portrayed as criminals.
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Violence & Scariness
Guns and bloody, destructive shoot-outs. Blood spurts; oozing, gushing, gurgling blood. Bloody wounds. Deaths. Characters are stabbed with knives. Head shot off of a body. Chopping up, disposing of dead bodies. Explosions. Stitching up wounds. Fighting, punching, slamming. Headbutt. Slapping. Nazi imagery. A character is mourning a dead spouse.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two characters briefly shown lying in bed together; one gets up, while the other remains under covers. Sex is suggested but nothing is shown.
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Very strong language includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "bulls--t," "horses--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "goddamn," "big fat d--k," "damn," "hell," "screw you," and racial slur "beaner." "Jesus" used as an exclamation.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters occasionally drink various shots of alcohol. A character swigs clear liquor (tequila?) from a bottle. Character gulps whiskey as a painkiller while stitching wounds. Character swallows a painkiller tablet.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that White Elephant is an action movie starring Michael Rooker, Olga Kurylenko, John Malkovich, and Bruce Willis (in one of his final roles, due to his aphasia diagnosis). It follows an assassin who betrays his boss to rescue a police officer. It's slightly better than the average Willis B movie, but still pretty ridiculous -- and very bloody. Expect lots of gory, destructive shoot-outs; gushing, gurgling, and spurting blood; characters getting killed; fighting, stabbing, dead bodies being chopped up; and more. Language is also very strong, with many uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," etc. A man leaves a bed where a woman is lying under the covers, suggesting that they had sex. Characters occasionally drink various shots of alcohol, a character swigs liquor from a bottle, and another character swigs whiskey as a kind of painkiller (and also swallows a tablet) while stitching up a wound.
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What's the Story?
In WHITE ELEPHANT, hired killer Gabriel Tancredi (Michael Rooker) has been working for crime boss Arnold (Bruce Willis) for years and is now training a younger protégé, Carlos (Vadhir Derbez). Arnold orders a hit on a Mexican gangster, and Carlos carries it out. But when he makes a bit of a mess, he blows up the building, an act witnessed by police officers Vanessa (Olga Kurylenko) and Walter (Michael Rose). To cover their tracks, the killers must kill the cops. Walter is quickly dispatched, but Vanessa proves a little harder to catch. Meanwhile, as Arnold's choices result in more violence, Gabriel makes a hard decision -- and, for the first time in a long while, tries to do the right thing.
Is It Any Good?
This is one of the better Bruce Willis B movies, thanks to two engaging and likable lead characters (neither played by Willis), but the overall story is too ridiculous to declare it a success. Vanessa and Gabriel are both introduced as having painful pasts. Gabe is mourning his late wife and stops by her final resting place more than once. Vanessa is all nerves and carries a dark cloud over her head due to the violence she's experienced on the job. When they team up during the third act, it's a good match, and we actually begin to care for them, to root for their success. But the circumstances that lead to their collaboration make little sense.
Everything rests on Arnold, whose reckless and needless commands launch all the violence. ("I think he's losing it," says Carlos.) This scenario, when coupled with Willis' real-life aphasia, which affects language and comprehension, casts a cruel-feeling shadow over the proceedings. (His checked-out performance is more sad than cool.) The rest of the characters seem to have been neglected, too, including Carlos, who tries on different shades of cockiness with little success, and John Malkovich's lawyer, Follett, who shows up in a few scenes to talk about Greek history but doesn't seem to actually connect to the plot. It's an OK attempt, but perhaps this White Elephant should have packed its trunk and gone home.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about White Elephant's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
Do you consider Gabe or Vanessa role models? Why, or why not?
How would you rate this movie on representation? Do non-White characters and/or women have power or agency? Why does that matter?
- In theaters: June 3, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: August 2, 2022
- Cast: Olga Kurylenko, Michael Rooker, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich
- Director: Jesse V. Johnson
- Inclusion Information: Latinx writers
- Studio: RLJE Films
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: May 8, 2023
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