The movie HANCOCK starring Will Smith dealt with the idea of a troubled superhero who had to wrestle with his own demons before he could truly help others. To put it bluntly, the film was a huge mess. Maybe I’m a bit more harsh since I’m not, nor ever will be, a Will Smith fan. When I heard about the film AMERICAN HERO, I was intrigued but not excited. It covers similar themes but I was reluctant to embrace it because I’ve never embraced Stephen Dorff as an actor. Nothing against him at all but for me, I either love him or hate him in a film, it’s a clean split. Thankfully with AMERICAN HERO, director Nick Love wrote a character that Dorff really connects with and the duo deliver a really strong film. Love also made a brilliant decision to cast comedian Eddie Griffin in a major role who at times can steal a scene. He’s a criminally underused talent and both men carry this film to near greatness.
Melvin (Stephen Dorff) and his wheelchair-bound best friend Lucille (Eddie Griffin) spend their days hanging out, looking for ladies, and having a great time. Melvin has a problem with booze, drugs, and random hookups. He also tends to lie, cheat, and steal his way through life which comes easy to him since he does have unexplainable super powers. He uses those powers to get himself into trouble when he should be using them to help others. The one thing in life he truly cares about is his son who he’s unable to visit because of his problems. Melvin will have to hit rock bottom before he realizes how important his gift can be. With the help of family and friends, he will have to learn how to use his powers for good, and prove to everyone he can be a hero, especially to his son.
As much as I enjoy all the super hero films being released, I’m growing tired of them. To see a film like AMERICAN HERO take a different, more realistic approach, it helps to revitalize the genre. Factor in two terrific performances and we have a winner. Stephen Dorff has mastered the art of playing a jerk with a heart of gold. What’s good here is that the evolution of his character feels real and very human, even with the extraordinary powers. Eddie Griffin is such a brilliant comedian and it’s sad he doesn’t get better roles. Love has given Griffin one of the best roles of his career. He’s allowed to be Eddie Griffin and deliver the laughs while still showing a much more layered character. The story may be pretty simple but it works. Dorff’s character has a very real problem and has a very real reason to triumph over his own issues. Even with the super power aspect, the overall themes are very much relatable to all of us in our day to day lives. It’s not an effects heavy film but the ones they do have look really good. Nick Love really strikes a cord with AMERICAN HERO, it’s funny, exciting, and believe it or not, it will tug at your heart strings a bit. I would take a film like this over another AVENGERS film any day.