Follow TV Tropes


Film / Barely Lethal

Go To

Barely Lethal is a 2015 action comedy film directed by Kyle Newman about a teenage assassin named "Agent 83" who fakes her own death, adopts the name "Megan" and enrolls in high school to live a normal life.

The film stars Hailee Steinfeld in the lead role, as well as Jessica Alba, Samuel L. Jackson, Dove Cameron and Sophie Turner, among others.

Oh, and RKO produced this film. That RKO.

Previews: Official Trailer

This film contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Megan is the very best of all the agents in Prescott Special School for Orphans.
  • Action Girl: A given with any Prescott girl, capable of taking on most grown men and women with ease even as teenagers, with only other Prescotts able to challenge them in a straight fight.
  • Alpha Bitch: Deconstructed with Cindy and Donna, and the cheerleaders. Cindy and Donna are mean girls, but they don't seem to be particularly popular, which ends up allowing Megan to fall for their tricks. Megan assumes the cheerleaders are this because films have taught her they always are, but in actuality they seemed to be genuinely nice people who wanted to befriend the new kid.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Every word out of Roger’s father’s mouth is cringe worthy.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Mr. Drumm the chemistry teacher is way too attached to Cash and keeps getting into his personal space.
  • And Starring: "With Jessica Alba And Samuel L. Jackson."
  • Arms Dealer: Victoria Knox's profession and the reason Megan is sent after her.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Megan constantly spots a suspicious white van seemingly trailing her and fears that Hardman has tracked her down, and sure enough a bunch of black-suited goons march out of it to kidnap her in her mascot costume. But then it turns out they're actually freshmen from a rival school, and it's a school tradition to kidnap the Viking mascot. This is only revealed after she's handed them their asses, however.
  • Beta Couple: Liz and Gooch, of all people.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Hardman and the Prescotts come to the rescue in the climax.
  • Big Man on Campus: Cash and his band had a song that was a moderate hit, so every girl in school has the hots for him and every guy wants to be his friend… including the teachers.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The three main girls in the movie: Megan (brunette), Liz (blonde) and Heather (redhead).
  • The Cameo:
  • Can't Stay Normal: Even when Megan's actively trying to blend into high school she sometimes 'defaults' to her military training, such as responding to a question about "The Road Not Taken" poem by discussing the tactical advantages of taking each path, or giving an elaborate breakdown of a video game to describe how such a compound would be protected in 'reality'.
  • Cat Fight: At the same time Megan and Heather are engaged in a deadly martial arts battle, Cindy and Donna get into an actual traditional catfight.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Kesha perfume.
  • Child Soldiers: The girls are trained since they are little kids, but apparently don’t go into the field until they’re teenagers.
  • Class Clown: Gooch fills this role in the school; making fun of everyone, to the point that he initially comes off as The Bully.
  • Combat Stilettos: Both Megan and Heather use them for the homecoming dance. Heather actually uses hers as weapons.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Liz realizes that she really likes stabbing people.
  • Dark Action Girl: Victoria Knox, the international arms dealer.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Hardman, the girls' trainer, played in all his glory by Samuel L. Jackson.
  • Face Doodling: After Liz passes out drunk in Gooch’s party someone draws a penis on her face.
  • A Father to His Men: Despite his hard insistence they are 'not in the business of rescuing people' and that attachment is a weakness, Hardman is still a good man (well, he's not a bad man) who raised the Prescotts from childhood. He can't help but develop attachment to them and want to make sure they're safe. Also doubles as invokedFridge Brilliance as saving Megan means capturing Knox, which is what he wanted.
  • Fish out of Water: Despite all her research, Megan is really out of her depth in high school.
  • Foreign Exchange Student: Megan poses as a Canadian exchange student in order to go to high school.
  • Gag Penis: Heather claims one of the Hemsworth brothers has one of these.
  • Game of Chicken: Megan and Liz vs Heather in a junkyard, after she tries to kill them the first time.
  • Genre Mashup: Teen comedy meets action spy thriller.
  • Handcuffed Briefcase: One of these makes an appearance in the opening montage on one of 83's missions. It isn't revealed what 83 did to the man holding it, but she exits holding the briefcase, with the handcuff unlocked.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Pedro the Torture Technician is surprisingly knowledgeable about the psychology and emotional issues of teenage girls.
    • Gooch is actually a pretty decent actor.
  • Hyperventilation Bag: Liz starts hyperventilating during her first car chase and tries to use one of these to solve it.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Megan’s motivation to fake her own death and enroll in high school.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Megan’s sartorial choices when she first starts going to high school are… unfortunate, to put it mildly.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Megan and Heather use shoes, fire hoses and broomsticks during their fight.
    • Liz takes down Heather by stabbing her with a corndog.
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: Played with; the video of Megan beating up guys from a rival school while wearing the mascot costume is uploaded to YouTube, but it actually makes her more popular among her peers. She's only upset about it because it means Hardman can now track her down.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gooch comes off as an asshole, but he’s not really that bad once we get to know him.
    • Liz slowly grows past her Deadpan Snarker personality, forms a relationship with Gooch, and warms up to Megan.
  • Meaningful Name: Hardman is a Drill Sergeant Nasty-type.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Heather, played by the beautiful Sophie Turner, spends most of her scenes in tight outfits.
  • Mugging the Monster: A bunch of students from a rival school to the one Megan is attending try to kidnap her at a pep rally as part of a high school tradition to hold the Viking mascot hostage. Megan promptly lays them out, thinking they're enemy agents.
  • The Nose Knows: Megan is able to tell it was Heather who tried to kill her because she smells Kesha perfume in the car.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Victoria tells Megan that they are very similar. Megan violently disagrees.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: Megan and Liz discuss what it’s like to kill someone, but when Mrs. Larson overhears she thinks they’re talking about sex. But given how that conversation went nobody can really blame her.
  • Parental Abandonment: Liz’s father abandoned the family and ran off with a pharmaceutical rep. Liz is not taking it well.
  • Parental Favoritism: Megan is Hardman’s favorite of all the Prescott girls, and he doesn’t even make the effort to pretend otherwise.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: During their fight, Heather at one point calls Megan a 'tranny mess'.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: When Megan tells Hardman that she worked for Sbarro during the summer, he thinks that she’s talking about a Lebanese criminal. Pedro needs to tell him it’s a pizza place.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil:
    • Victoria Knox used to be a Prescott. Hardman even offers her a chance to be good again.
    • And by the end of the movie Heather.
  • Seduction as One-Upmanship: Megan falls for two boys, Cash and Roger, while at high school. Heather, Megan's rival when she was a Teen Superspy, shows up at her school. She tries seducing Cash, and according to her makes out with him, in order to irritate Megan. Cash ends up asking Megan to homecoming, but Megan realizes she really likes Roger. When she goes to confess her feelings to him, she sees that Heather took him to the dance.
  • Sigil Spam: Hardman likes to put Prescott's logo on everything.
  • Shout-Out: The movie features a truckload of them:
    • In order to research normal high school life Megan watches several movies such as Mean Girls, Clueless and Bring It On.
    • A perfume marketed by Kesha becomes a plot point in the movie.
    • Hardman mockingly offers Victoria a The L Word box set for her imprisonment.
    • Victoria calls Hardman "Dumbledore".
    • When speculating about the reason why Megan is crying, Pedro suggests that maybe she watched The Notebook one too many times.
    • Liz calls Megan "Ringwald" when she finally gets tired of her treating everything like it’s a high school movie.
    • Gooch acts out a scene from The Breakfast Club to prove to Liz that he can act.
    • Liz thinks Cash looks like "the ass baby of Criss Angel and Russell Brand".
    • When adopting the persona of a beautiful Alpha Bitch, 84 chooses the cover name of Heather.
  • Spy School: Prescott Special School for Orphans, where they teach little girls to become assassins.
  • Take That!: When Megan introduces herself as Canadian in the school assembly, Gooch leads the entire student body into a chant...
    Entire Assembly: Take back Bieber! Take back Bieber!
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Megan and Heather do this when quipping during their fight. Even Liz gets in on the action eventually.
  • Those Two Guys: Cindy and Donna never appear on-screen without each other.
  • Torture Technician: Hardman brings along one named Pedro when he thinks Megan is working for someone else.
  • Truth Serums: When Hardman injects Megan with one, she objects that these don’t even work, but then she starts spilling her guts anyway.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Part of the girls’ training includes repeatedly stabbing dolls.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Liz pukes her guts out during the car chase, she does in the back seat where the audience can’t see it.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Megan's only point of reference for what a normal high-school experience is like are the teen movies she watches for research. This leads her to make many stupid decisions based on said movies' tropes, since she is still in a spy movie. One example is when the genuinely nice cheerleader Missy tries to befriend her, and Megan assumes she’s an Alpha Bitch trying to set her up.
  • You Are Number 6: None of the girls at Prescotts have names, they all only have numbers.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: The principal’s reaction when he tells the school assembly where their new foreign exchange student comes from.
    Principal Weissman: Canada?! Are you kidding me?
  • You Fight Like a Cow: During their big fight, Megan and Heather continuously lob insults at each other about the other’s appearance:
    Heather: Before I kick your ass, let me say ‘Well done’. For once you don’t look like a tranny mess.
    Megan: Thanks. I really like your dress. Perfect length to show off those cottage-cheese thighs.
    Heather: You wish you had this bod! P90X, bitch!
    Megan: P90 extra-large, bitch!