moderate violence, infrequent strong language

In 2021 we conducted research into people’s views on strong and very strong language. One of the words we tested was ‘motherf**ker’, which for many people is an offensive term that in most circumstances should be restricted to a 15 age rating. However, in some very rare, exceptional cases, isolated use may appear at 12A depending on the context.

One such example that we tested in the research was Ang Lee’s sci-fi action thriller Gemini Man, which stars Will Smith as an ageing sniper looking to retire, but finding he has become the target of a relentless assassin that appears to be his younger self.

A host of action sequences containing moderate violence established a baseline 12A rating for the film, but language proved to be the most challenging classification issue. At various points people in the film use the acronym ‘AMF’ to imply killing or removing someone. Following one use, a character new to the protagonist’s world asks what it stands for and is told: ‘Adios, motherf**ker’.

We would define the acronym ‘AMF’ as implied strong language containable at 12A/12, but with the word being spoken it raised the question of whether the film needed to be rated 15. However, the word is only said quietly in a matter-of-fact, explanatory manner and without any aggression or threat intended. It is also only used once in the film. Given this special contextual justification, it was containable under our guidelines at 12A. Participants in our research supported this decision for these reasons, but stressed that such cases should be the exception, with angry, sexualised, directed or repeated uses still better placed at 15.

We classified Gemini Man 12A for moderate violence, infrequent strong language.