Melvin is an unemployed and almost average man caught in a custody battle with his ex-wife and ambling through a directionless life in a low-rent neighbourhood of New Orleans. He also happens to be in possession of psychokinetic powers that he variously uses to impress girls with party tricks, masquerade as a street magician and rob petty criminals of their ill-gotten gains.
That American Hero is written and directed by Nick Love might give you pause, but it seems that he has finally moved past the wideboy geezer garbage with which he made his name, the complete absence of any amount of Danny Dyer also only ever being a good thing. While American Hero retains faint echoes of his love of chronicling unfocused male rage seen in the likes of The Football Factory, Outlaw and The Firm, it is a far more subdued piece of work and as a result makes you far less contemptuous of its very existence.
The core concept of a drunken superpowered screw-up might make you think of Hancock, but with regards to its comic book stylings the film actually has far more in common with Chronicle, offering a more naturalistic view of how an individual with superpowers might actually behave. Indeed, the story is about the man rather than his abilities, and as such Melvin’s powers are treated as secondary to his personal journey of getting his life in order and becoming the kind of man actually deserving of being a father. In this regard it’s almost like an origin story, as an individual with otherworldly abilities learns to harness them to their full potential and figure out how he can use them to make the world around him a slightly better place.
The story offers no conclusive explanation of how Melvin acquired his abilities, and suggests that he may have grown far more powerful were it not for his party hard lifestyle messing up his brain chemistry. Perhaps in an attempt to transcend him beyond the petty waster he might have come across as, he is shown to have a deep appreciation of classical music and literature, constantly in awe of their ability to both instil in him ineffable emotion and express the world in a way he himself lacks the eloquence to.
The mockumentary style is an interesting touch, but the conceit doesn’t actually hold up. For one thing, nobody encountered actually comments on the fact that a film crew are following Melvin around, while certain situations – such as a shootout with a bunch of gangsters – are not filmed in such a way that convinces a real person is diligently chronicling events while standing directly in the midst of them. The concept fails doubly with you take into account the rambling story, which is poorly structured and directionless when it should appear as something that has been cut into a coherent progression of events.
American Hero is a decent idea, but is let down by sloppy execution and meandering plot. If nothing else, it shows that Love is slowly maturing as a filmmaker, and that he might one day make something that can be unequivocally recommended.
AMERICAN HERO / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: NICK LOVE / STARRING: STEPHEN DORFF, EDDIE GRIFFIN, LUIS DA SILVA, CHRISTOPHER BERRY, YOHANCE MYLES, ANDREA COHEN, RAEDEN GREER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10