'American Hero': Film Review

Courtesy of Screen Media Films
And you thought "Ant-Man" was quirky.
12/11/2015

Stephen Dorff plays a hard-partying slacker with telekinetic powers in Nick Love's offbeat superhero dramedy.

Superheroes have become so prevalent in our culture that they now even populate indie dramedies. Such is the case with British filmmaker Nick Love's (The Sweeney) quirky take on the genre, featuring Stephen Dorff as a middle-aged burnout who seeks personal redemption by using his telekinetic powers to fight crime in run-down New Orleans. But while it has some amusing moments, American Hero is not likely to pose much of a threat to the Avengers.

The ironic titular character is Melvin (Dorff), who uses his unexplained powers mainly for party tricks while devoting most of his energy to pursuing booze, drugs and women. Living with his mother and younger sister, he's estranged from his ex-wife (Keena Ferguson), who prevents him from spending significant time with his young son (Jonathan Billions) because of his hard-partying ways.

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When a health scare finally induces Melvin to clean up his act, he begins taking on the drug-dealing criminals terrorizing his neighborhood. Using his unique abilities to propel cars into the air and ward off the bullets and knives heading his way, he's finally using his powers for good even as they're apparently weakening his heart.

While these sequences generate a fair amount of suspense — the special effects are surprisingly convincing considering the obviously low budget — it's the more intimate moments that give the film some heart. The relationship between Melvin and his best friend, a disabled war veteran named Lucille (Eddie Griffin), is touchingly drawn, with one of the more moving scenes involving Melvin gifting Lucille with a snazzy new motorized wheelchair. Another highlight comes when Melvin uses a casual display of his telekinetic abilities to scare off his sister's unsuspecting boyfriend.

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Still, there's really not much of a story here, with the brief running time padded out with seemingly endless scenes of Melvin partying up a storm. Dorff, who deserves better projects, is typically solid as the wastrel hero, and Griffin delivers a nicely understated turn as his sardonic buddy. Director/screenwriter Love uses his seedy locations to excellent advantage, giving the film a highly lived-in atmosphere that will no doubt have New Orleans residents cheering on the protagonist. But American Hero, which intermittently uses a faux-documentary style to awkward effect, never quite decides what it wants to be.    

Production: Vertigo Films

Distributor: Screen Media Films

Cast: Stephen Dorff, Eddie Griffin, Bill Billions, Jonathan Billions, Andrea Cohen, Luis Da Silva Jr., Keena Ferguson

Director/screenwriter: Nick Love

Producers: Allan Niblo, James Richardson, Nick Love

Executive producers: Nigel Williams, Rupert Preston

Director of photography: Simon Dennis

Production designer: Forest Fagan

Editor: Richard Graham

Composer: Lorne Balfe

Casting: Ryan Glorioso

Not rated, 86 min.

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