Barely Lethal (Blu-ray Review)

barelyIn a year that has featured many entertaining spy films, Barely Lethal is a spy comedy for teens, with an ideal to have fun with the genre and serve as its own clever entry into it. With a cast featuring both hip young stars like Hailee Steinfeld and Sophie Turner, along with veteran Samuel L. Jackson, there was certainly enough effort put in to add quality to the simple premise. But does this film serve as something truly worthwhile, or is it just another disposable teen comedy with some fun action beats? The Blu-ray is now here for you to find out.




Barely Lethal follows teenage special ops agent 83 (Steinfeld). Having grown up an orphan in spy school, trained to become a hardened assassin all her life, 83 has felt the desire to live the life of a normal teenager. Despite being one of the best young agents under the tutelage of Hardman (Jackson), 83 takes an opportunity to fake her own death and live a life of a kid in high school. Enrolling as an exchange student, 83 attempts to navigate the world of teen culture, but that proves to be nearly as difficult as it is to be a trained spy.

The film comes from director Kyle Newman, who previously helmed Fanboys, the film caught in a production battle between him and the Weinstein Company. If you liked that film, then you may be in good company here. The film is fairly fast-paced, has a solid cast and doesn’t work too hard to be entertaining. Most of the story flows fairly well and there is even enough in the way of attempts to remain a female-positive story, given the many actresses present in the cast.

With all of this in mind, I cannot say I was big on what this film had to offer. It is not so much a story issue, as you should basically know what to expect, but the humor is fairly inconsistent and I think it largely comes down to direction. It is actually a similar problem I had with Fanboys, as that was a film that had a decent premise, only to be undone by irritating choices made throughout the feature. Barely Lethal fortunately does not have a bunch of Star Wars in-jokes to rely on, so it feels like a more complete film, but not one that is incredibly memorable.


The cast does there part. Hailee Steinfeld was impressive in True Grit and continues to be an intriguing young actress to watch. This may be her most standard role, but it is a lead part that gives her the opportunity to hold onto a film herself. She is basically successful, even in the film’s most weakly scripted moments. Jackson is Jackson, which makes sense in a low-budget film like this, where he gets to do his thing. The other actors are decent enough as well, with Jessica Alba doing her best to show range as an over-the-top villain.

There are really only so many places for a story like this to go. The added action elements are mediocre at best and the film can only do so much to balance the tone required for this sort of genre mash-up. Barely Lethal is not a bad movie, as much as it is just unsuccessful in really making itself work. The script has a lot of decent ideas, but this feels like a film that would never go to thousands of movie screens for a reason.


Barely Lethal

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 10809

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: There is plenty to admire in this Blu-ray transfer, given how the tone of the film ideally conveys both a spy story and a teen comedy. That said, it is the quality of the Blu-ray that ends up harming the film in certain ways. You can really notice the CGI moments and scenes that required green screen, which is not a knock on the transfer, but doesn’t help in hiding the film’s budget limitations.

Depth: Depth is fine. People moving around their environments feels natural enough and easily registered.

Black Levels: Black levels are decent, but a lot of dimly lit scenes did not help too much.

Color Reproduction: Colors fare better, as a lot of scenes really pop in the right kinds of ways.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures are quite strong and reflect well when seeing closely shot scenes. Lots of great detail to find there.

Noise/Artifacts: None.




Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Dynamics: The lossless soundtrack does a fine job handling all that this film attempts to handle in its score, action, and other sound elements.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel gets a decent workout when it comes to the big action scenes.

Surround Sound Presentation: There is a fine balance in the way the audio track is spread across the different channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone sounds loud and clear.




A commentary is always a plus, especially for a film like this, where I don’t expect too much in the way of extras. Still, this disc doesn’t have much to offer.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Kyle Newman and Actors Dover Cameron and Thomas Mann – Pretty standard stuff, with not all that much insight about the production.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 6:49)
  • Back To School: On The Set Of Barely Lethal (HD, 10:45) – Standard EPK featuring a few decent interviews.



Barely Lethal is nothing all that special. It doesn’t come together in the best of ways, despite its fairly strong cast. That said, it is maybe worth a rental. The Blu-ray is solid enough, with a nice technical presentation. Not much in the way of extras, but there is at least something there.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “Barely Lethal (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Now I need to watch this just to see how Alba does as a villain 🙂