"One of the best films of the year!"
– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF
Veteran actor Sam Elliott has that famous authoritative deep voice we can all recognize on television from the other room. He also has that legendary bushy mustache that seems to walk into movie scenes minutes ahead of the star-like in 1993's "Tombstone" as Virgil Earp. But Elliott's six-foot two-inch cowboy frame, chiseled facial features, and booming voice have mostly led to supporting movie and TV characters over his vast career. Until now. In "The Hero", we find Elliott's emergence into the leading role gig a comfortable and relaxing match for the grizzled performer-like the perfect fit of a well-worn leather glove on a gunfighter's hand.
In one of the best films of the year, Elliott plays an iconic Western movie star named Lee Hayden, who hasn't had a quality film in 40 years. Left doing voice-overs for barbecue sauce commercials, Elliott's aging character unexpectedly gets notified that Hayden is being presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from his rabid fan-base.
The brilliance of "The Hero" is that it looks back at Hayden's past life as much as it peers forward. This perspective offers us short glimpses into Hayden's relationship with his family and career over the years. We also see what lies ahead for the struggling actor with the recognizable voice. A washed up, reclusive man with many flaws gets exposed, but he never fails to acknowledge or take responsibility for his actions.
A film that moves at the pace of its 72-year old headliner, moviegoers will find its slow, straight-talk and problematic issues dealt with in a head-on and fresh manner, mesmerizing viewers. The uncertainty in Hayden's life feels wholly believable and never rushed for the sake of getting to the next line of a scene. Instead, "The Hero" engulfs us with the same vulnerability and real-life problems that age throws at everyone. It even gets us to ponder our impact on others' lives and contemplate our achievements over a lifetime.
"The Hero" will leave you wanting more. Much more. Clever storytelling takes us back to only parts of leading man Lee Hayden's past and several relationships he fosters. Problems are dealt with like tumble weed on a gusty horse trail. They're out of mind and sight for now…but never gone entirely.
This spectacular–yet plain talking–movie could easily transform itself into a weekly TV series or a Showtime 10-part miniseries. That voice of his. The crazy mustache. And his stoic cowboy persona could easily achieve it. In the meantime, grab yourself some Lone Star barbecue sauce, the perfect partner for your chicken.
"The Hero" is in limited theaters but is scheduled for wide release on July 4.
"The Hero" is rated R for drug use, language, and some sexual content. Its running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.