Writer/director Nick Love’s latest film American Hero wants to be Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, Josh Trank’s Chronicle, and Peter Berg’s Hancock all at the same time. Despite the impressive list of influences, American Hero doesn’t have much to say nor does it provide an entertaining or compelling story.
Stephen Dorff plays Melvin, the subject of the faux documentary. He can be described as a self-destructive individual gifted with the ability of telekinesis. After losing custody of his kid, Rex, Melvin spirals out of control. A night of excessive party literally kills Melvin, but after getting a second change he will do whatever it takes to clean up his situation as well as his community in the process. He’s joined by Lucille (Eddie Griffith), a wheelchair bound veteran who also acts as Melvin’s voice of reason.
As mentioned previously American Hero can be compared to Somewhere in the sense that American Hero can be seen as life between the panels of a comic book much like Coppola’s film which shows life between the glitz and glamourous moments of being a famous actor. Melvin is the movie’s biggest problem. The guy is just unlikeable, similar to Will Smith’s Hancock – except he doesn’t have Jason Bateman to help him with his public image. Although we don’t ever find out the source of Melvin’s powers, we do see his circumstances. Even though we see his setbacks and failures the film fails to make Melvin a sympathetic character which makes his transformation less believable.
Even less of a payoff is the movie’s format. The movie has several self-referential moments because it’s presented like a documentary somewhat like Chronicle (a found footage film about gifted individuals) but the use of the format is wasted and inconsistent throughout. Had Melvin died at the end of the film trying to make a difference in the city, the video could have served as a last will and testimony for Melvin’s son Rex, which also would vindicate Melvin’s change.
With a title like American Hero, I expected Love to bring up some interesting ideas and themes, which at times he does, like how we treat veterans. Or even the question of what does it mean to be a hero? But those are quickly abandoned resulting in a slow burning movie that seems to express everything at face value. The one thing the movie proves is that Dorff could play another smart mouthed, self-destructive, and morally grey hero e.g. Constantine.
Rating: 1 out of 5.
I don’t recommend the film, but if you’re so inclined to seek after it. American Hero is in limited release and Video on Demand.