I had thought initially this would be just another super hero film, but American Hero is far from it. It is gritty and earthy (except for some indulgent special effects in the last 20 minutes).
The film’s main character is Melvin (Stephen Dorff) who uses his unexplained powers of telekinesis to perform cheap tricks, but he has never done anything with his life in general and is devoted to drugs, booze and women. He lives with his Mother and younger sister but yearns to spend time with his young son. However, he has lost visiting privileges and mostly hangs around with his friend Lucille (Eddie Griffin), behaving without any thought for others.
When a health scare finally forces Melvin to clean up his act, he begins taking on the drug-dealing criminals terrorising his neighbourhood. Using his unique abilities to propel objects into the air and ward off the bullets and knives heading his way, he is finally able to use his powers for good even if they are weakening his heart. His good deeds enable him to earn money which results in him being able to see his son again and they ride off into the distance on a bicycle.
While the film initially shows promise, there are several problems with the script. I became bored with Melvin’s repetitive backsliding and there is not enough backstory about what wrecked his marriage and why he is such a layabout. Having said that, the performances of Stephen Dorff and Eddie Griffin are compelling viewing.
Dorff, famous for playing PK in The Power of One, delivers an intense performance and is totally believable. I have not seen this side of him before and was impressed with his ability to maintain the two sides of his character – the out of control thug and the compassionate father who just wants to see his son.
Eddie Griffin, best know for the sitcom Malcolm and Eddie, is the reality in Melvin’s life while providing almost all of the film’s humour. He and Stephen Dorff have a real chemistry on the screen.
American Hero starts well, but flags and resolves all too quickly, but is still interesting viewing. However, if you are offended by bad language, this film is best avoided.
Reviewed by Barry Hill
American Hero will be released on Blu-ray and DVD from 15 February 2017.
Rating out of 10: 7