It’s no secret that Marvel’s latest feature Captain America: Civil War hits theaters today. It’s going to make big money at the box office and, if the rumors are true, it’ll be well-deserved. We at EOM will likely have to wait until next weekend to see it. (Wish us luck avoiding spoilers.) For now, though, we can recommend a different superhero story that you don’t have to leave home to see: American Hero. Written and directed by Nick Love and featuring Stephen Dorff, American Hero tells a different kind of superhero story.
Taking place in a post-Katrina New Orleans, our hero, Melvin (played by Dorff), spends his days drinking, doing drugs, and generally causing mischief. Though imbued with telekinetic abilities, Melvin is no hero. When we meet Melvin, he’s being followed by a camera crew that’s shooting a documentary about Melvin and his abilities. Through this we learn that he’s unemployed, divorced, in a custody battle for his son, his friends are either dead or wounded military, and his community has barely recovered from Katrina. Though his has some amazing gifts, Melvin just can’t get out of his own way.
Don’t be deceived: the trailer advertises American Hero as an action-comedy. It’s not. It has plenty of funny moments and features several cleverly executed action-sequences, but at its core American Hero is a character-drama in a superhero wrapper. Melvin is a man with great potential and a kind heart, yet he ruins nearly everything he gets near. But why? This is the question that ultimately causes him to turn his life around.
Unlike the spectacle-filled Civil War, Love’s American Hero is a smaller story about a man struggling to find redemption from his friends, family, community, and himself. Normally we expect to see cities fall when superheroes stretch their muscles, but Melvin isn’t that hero and this isn’t that story. Melvin doesn’t want to cause harm and he realizes, almost too late, what damage his indifference can do. There is no grand battle or mustache-twirling villain, but there is a solid story and interesting characters. As an allegory for responsibility and the choices we make, I promise you won’t feel you’ve wasted 86-minutes and it might even get you thinking about how you view your role in your community. It doesn’t take super powers to make big changes, only the will to take action.
Available now through Netflix Instant, Netflix DVD, and other VOD services.
Final Score: 3 out of 5