American Hero – ★ ★ ½ DVD Review
American Hero eh? From the back of the box it sounded like something I’d enjoy. Melvin (Stephen Dorff), a reluctant hero who is far from super, has been suppressing his telekinetic powers for years with booze, drugs, and women. In the process, he has failed at practically everything, most of all as a parent to his son. After a brush with death, Melvin decides to use his powers for good and clean up the streets of New Orleans with the help of his best friend/definitely-not-a-sidekick, Lucille (Eddie Griffin). For a man who can do the impossible, it might be a fight even he can’t win.
In my mind I was hoping this was going to be a “redeemed hero” story, instead it just kind of missed the mark. We’re constantly shown how Melvin is a drunk and he’s wasting his gift, but the “redemption” doesn’t really happen, at least not as I had hoped or expected. Also, the idea that he’s been suppressing his powers could have been explored a lot better. In fact, it’s not that he’s suppressing them, he’s just not been using them, or at least using them well. It’s not like he stops drinking and his powers evolve or grow to new levels, he just starts to use them more. It’s also not like he’d been drinking to control his powers or to hide them, he was just drinking because he could. There were several changes that could have made this a story I would have enjoyed a lot more. Someone with abilities so powerful that they were afraid of them and they drank to bury the powers to protect the people around them but that causes him to distance himself and almost lose the people around them; that could have been interesting. That wasn’t the case with Melvin. He’d been using his powers as a street hustler/magician, and to rob robbers and other various bad guys, taking the spoils for himself, not to return them to their proper owners. He has brief moments where his conscience flares up and he wants to do good so he can see his son again, but he quickly regresses back to his lazy and drunk nature.
American Hero was filmed documentary style, and that probably didn’t help it in my own mind. It seemed like they shot it that way because they couldn’t figure out how to tell the story in the format of a straightforward story. There was a fair bit of shaky camera work, and characters narrating and talking to the camera, which could have worked, but we didn’t really get any explanation as to why we were seeing Melvin in a “documentary” in the first place.
I thought that Eddie Griffin was a really good casting choice for Lucille, Melvin’s best friend. Dorff himself did an equally good job, though the Melvin character was a little repetitive at times. It was clearly done on a small budget but still managed to have decent (though not earth-shattering) special effects. While it wasn’t what I expected or was looking for, others may enjoy this one. It wasn’t nearly as frustrating as some of the other bad films I had watched recently. At least there was a story here, not the absence of a story that they tried to cover up with artsy camera work.
Bottom Line: Stephen Dorff was in the movie The Gate in 1987. His co-star was Louis Tripp. We were in grade 7 and I collected Louis’ school notes and homework for him while he was off shooting the film. Dorff has had a much more successful film career than my friend….