Australian Council on Children and the Media

True Grit

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Not suitable under 15 due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for True Grit
  • a review of True Grit completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 24 January 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not suitable due to violence, disturbing scenes and themes

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: True Grit
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Violence
Length 110 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

After her father is shot dead by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) arrives in town to claim her father’s body, and to see his killer bought to justice. However, Chaney has fled into the Indian Nations and has thrown his lot in with a vicious gang of outlaws headed by Lucky Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper).

Refusing to allow Chaney to escape justice, Mattie hires a man with “true grit”, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help her track him down. Rooster is an aging, overweight man who spends more time drinking than he does bringing in criminals, whom he brings in dead more times than alive.

Also after Chaney is La Boeuf (Matt Damon), a Texas Ranger, who has been on his trail for months after Chaney killed a U.S. senator.  La Boeuf joins Mattie and Rooster on their dangerous hunt.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The Wild West; revenge; alcohol abuse

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

True Grit repeatedly depicts realistic brutal and graphic violence including blood and gore with the film giving the impression that life was very cheap in the Wild West. Examples include:

  • 14-year-old Mattie Ross talks about her father being shot down by a man and her intention to see his killer hanged. We see a flashback image of her father lying dead on the road.  
  • Three men stand on a high platform about to be hanged in front of a large crowd of spectators. The men have their hands tied behind their backs and each has a noose tied around his neck; one of the men breaks down crying. After each man says a few final words the executioner pulls a lever and the three men drop through a trap door. We hear the sound of a thud as the men reach the end of their ropes, see their bodies dangling above the ground, and hear the sounds of gasps from the spectators. 
  • During a courtroom cross examination, Rooster Cogburn describes how he witnessed a dead woman lying out in a yard with blowflies on her face and a man lying on the ground with his chest blown open and his feet burnt. We hear Cogburn tell how he was threatened by a man with an axe and another man with a shot gun and how he killed both men and then a third who also threatened him
  • Mattie Ross and Ranger La Boeuf argue about where Chaney should be hanged. La Boeuf threatens to bend Mattie over his knee and give her five or six licks of his belt. Later La Boeuf bends Mattie over his knee and smacks her on the buttocks with the palm of his hand. La Boeuf then picks up a long stick and uses it to strike Mattie on the buttocks until Rooster points a gun at him.       
  • During a gunfight between Cogburn and two men holed up in a cabin, the men fire bullets through the roof, narrowly missing Mattie who is on the roof blocking the chimney. Rooster fires wildly into the cabin and a man is shot. A short time later we see one of the men sitting in the cabin with a blood soaked bandage wrapped around the man’s leg. We hear the man with the bullet wound complaining that his leg hurts and hear Rooster telling the man that his leg would swell up and would have to be cut off and afterwards the man would have to spend years in jail.
  • While Rooster is questioning the wounded man the second man pulls out a knife and cuts off two of the wounded man’s fingers before plunging the knife into the man’s chest. Rooster shoots the second man in the head.  
  • Mattie Ross points a gun at Tom Chaney, ordering him to surrender. When Chaney refuses to surrender, Mattie shoots him in the side.  The shot wounds Chaney who then hits Mattie across the face with his hand, knocking her to the ground. Chaney then deals roughly with Mattie while taking her prisoner. A short time later, Lucky Ned throws Mattie to the ground and pins her down, placing his booted foot on her face and threatening to kill her unless Rooster meets his demands.   
  • In an intense and disturbing scene, Tom Chaney threatens to throw Mattie into a deep pit and leave her screaming. A short time later Chaney pins Mattie to the ground and holds a knife to her throat with Mattie making choking sounds. Chaney tells Mattie that he is going to kill her.  
  • During a gunfight between Lucky Ned, three members of his gang and Rooster we see Rooster riding head-on at the four men firing two handguns. One man is shot in the chest, blood splatters from the wound and he falls from his horse. Rooster shoots a second man who falls, hitting his head on a rock. Blood sprays from the man’s head and we hear the thud/crunch of the impact. At the end of the fight Rooster lies pinned under his dead horse with Lucky Ned poised to shoot him.  La Boeuf shoots Lucky Ned before he is able to shoot Rooster.
  • Chaney hits La Boeuf over the head with a large rock (we see blood on his head and face), and Mattie shoots Chaney in the chest. We see a small bloody wound on Chaney’s shirt front and the impact of the gunshot causes him to fall backwards off a cliff.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under eight, including the following:

  • Mattie Ross visits the funeral parlour to view her father’s body which is shown lying in a coffin. When Mattie returns to the parlour later, three more bodies lie under sheets with the hand of one sticking out. Mattie, who has no money left, bargains to be allowed to sleep at the funeral parlour and is told she can sleep in one of the coffins.
  • Rooster and Mattie come across the body of a man hanging high in a tree with a vulture pecking at the face. Mattie climbs the tree and cuts the body loose and it falls to the ground with a loud thud. We see the discoloured face and a pecked out eye socket.   
  • Two Native American children torment a mule tied to a porch post, poking it with pointed sticks. Rooster pulls the boy over the railing and onto the ground and kicks the girl off the porch.
  • A man rides a horse wearing a bear skin covering his upper body, with the head of the bear resting on top of his head, the bear’s mouth is open and its tongue showing.
  • We see a man sever another man’s fingers and see two bloody fingers lying on the table as well as the bloody stumps left on the man’s hand.
  • La Boeuf has a very bloody mouth after being lassoed and dragged along the ground.  After examining La Boeuf, Rooster announces that La Boeuf has several loose teeth and has nearly bitten through his tongue. Rooster offers to pull the remainder of La Boeuf’s tongue out, putting his fingers inside La Boeuf’s mouth and pulling, with La Boeuf screaming in pain. We also see a bloody wound in La Boeuf’s shoulder and hear how a bullet passed straight through his shoulder. 
  • Mattie falls backwards into a deep pit with her foot entangled in tree roots. She lands near a partially decomposed corpse with a knife in its belt. As Mattie tries to grab the knife, a number of rattle snakes coiled within the chest cavity of the corpse slither over her. One snake bites her hand, leaving two small bloody puncture wounds. Rooster uses his knife to cut the bite mark and attempts to suck out the venom. Later we hear that Mattie’s hand turned black and had to be amputated. 
  • In an attempt to get aid for Mattie, Rooster rides a horse very hard and fast with Mattie sitting in front of him. When the horse begins to slow down, Rooster take out his knife and stabs it in the rear to spur it on. Eventually the horse collapses from exhaustion and Rooster shoots it in the head to Mattie’s great distress.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violent and frightening scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violent and frightening scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned violent and frightening scenes.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • La Boeuf watches Mattie sleeping and when she wakes he tells her that he was thinking of stealing a kiss while she slept even though she is so young. Mattie tells him that a saucy line like that will not get him far with her and that she finds the thought distasteful

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • several instances of pipe smoking
  • Rooster lights cigarettes on a number of occasions and Mattie rolls cigarettes for him.
  • Rooster Cogburn is referred to as a man who likes to pull a cork. On numerous occasions he drinks whiskey from a bottle and is seen in an intoxicated state. He falls off his horse while drunk during one scene.
  • While very drunk, Rooster shoots at bread rolls that he has thrown into the air, nearly shooting La Boeuf.
  • A Chinese man lies on a bed holding what appears to be an opium pipe.

Coarse language

There are some instances of coarse language and put downs in this movie, including:

  • “to hell with you”, “pencil-neck son of a bitch”, “trash”, “goddamn”,  “harpy in trousers”

In a nutshell

True Grit is the Coen Brothers’ successful version of the western adventure story told in the 1969 John Wayne film of the same name. It is unlikely to disappoint fans of the Coen Brothers or of westerns, but is definitely aimed at an adult audience. Parents are strongly cautioned that the film contains some intense and disturbing scenes and images, graphic and realistic violence, dark humour and themes.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Courage or “true grit” can found inside people when the need arises.
  • The fragility of life in the old west
  • “Don’t judge a book by it cover” - Rooster Cogburn proved to be far more that his appearance and demeanour suggested. 

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with older children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • the difference between justice and revenge
  • the effects of alcohol abuse on the abuser as well as friends and family members.

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