American Hero 2015
This post came about in part from my Patreon where each month patrons can vote on a movie (or movies) that I review here each month. This has been sitting on my list for a while, it’s an indie film from 2015 starring Stephen Dorff and Eddie Griffin. It is currently available to watch free with ads on Vudu. There’s a bit of a documentary feel to it, but that mostly feels like an excuse for the overall low budget nature of the film. It reminds me quite a bit of Sleight, though there’s a touch more of a superhero narrative in this film, enough for it to cross the line into actually being a superhero movie. Unfortunately most of the characters aren’t all that likable and they all end the film more or less where they started without much real growth.
The film more or less follows two friends, Lucille played by Eddie Griffin who is in a wheelchair, and Melvin played by Stephen Dorff who is telekinetic and an alcoholic addict slacker. There’s the facade of a documentary crew that’s initially talking to Lucille to find Melvin, but aside from a couple other interview style segments early on, the documentary aspect is mostly ignored in favor of a more traditional styled narrative. The interview segments are interesting and there’s a lot of focus on Hurricane Katrina, but like the documentary concept itself, that also is lost. It felt like the film didn’t really have a full concept and just changed gears as it went along. It was part mockumentary, part redemption story, part superhero story, and part just plain slice of life. But none of it really got enough focus to sustain an entire movie.
Melvin is the most interesting character but he has plenty of flaws and it’s often hard to get a handle on him. He’s introduced passed out on the road with one shoe completely off and he had forgotten about a court date involving visitation rights for his son. Melvin seemingly has no job, he lives with his mother, he wants to be present for his son but the court gave him community service and a restraining order to stay away from his son and his son’s mother. He generally uses his powers as a street hustle to make a few bucks from a crowd of gawkers until he almost dies. There’s also a thread about how using his powers puts a great strain on his heart and could eventually kill him, but that’s yet another plot detail that’s completely lost in this film. Dorff generally gives a great performance, both when Melvin is in full party mode as well as when he’s doing his best to clean up his act. There are some great slice of life moments when he’s having dinner with his mother, sister, and her new boyfriend, or when he’s just playing the piano while making the furniture float in the other room for no apparent reason other than he can.
It can be frustrating because there are a lot of good ideas in this film, but none of them are really explored to any satisfying level. Melvin trains his powers in a junkyard and runs afoul of a local drug dealer who’s peddling to kids. It’s also unfortunate that the film stoops to that level as peddling drugs to kids is really just bad business, kids don’t have much disposable income and it generally just feels like lazy shorthand to show the audience that the drug dealer is evil and deserves whatever comes to them. There are a couple showdown moments that once again aren’t explored in much detail as Lucille gets shot in the arm by said drug dealer and blames Melvin for the injury which puts their friendship on the outs and eventually turns Melvin back to drugging and drinking. But just two or three scenes later, Lucille returns and all is forgiven with no real consequences despite Melvin still going after him in his lair, so to speak, and enacting his revenge or justice.
While the plot tends to leave much to be desired, the two main characters of Melvin and Lucille manage to hold the film together and any enjoyment of the movie is because of those two. Eddie Griffin does a decent job with his character, giving him a fair amount of sympathy and gravitas while only lightly delving into the comedy that he’s more well known for. The look of the film is decent as well, while it’s incredibly obvious that any of the moving objects are CGI, it’s all very well done considering the budget. None of it looks completely real, but it all looks realistic and isn’t overly jarring. It’s difficult to recommend this film because it’s really all over the place but it was worth watching. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.