After working together on the film I'll See You in My Dreams, screenwriters Brett Haley and Marc Basch went on to write The Hero screenplay specifically for Sam Elliott. They chose their muse well - the actor known for his roles in Tombstone and The Big Lebowski is the best thing about this introspective drama.
Elliott plays Lee Hayden, an ageing Western icon whose best work is behind him; including a film called The Hero. He spends his days getting stoned with an old colleague, doing voice-overs for barbecue sauces and quietly hoping his career isn't over.
A diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer turns Hayden's world upside down, and Elliott's nuanced, understated performance captures a man dealing with his past as he faces his mortality.
As a story about a character dealing with the repercussions of making their career a priority over family, it's not an original idea, but in the hands of Elliott, it's gripping material. Lee finding solace in a younger woman (played by Orange is the New Black's Laura Prepon) isn't a unique twist either – but the chemistry is impressive.
The Hero is all about subtlety - gestures and glances and the quiet moments of reflection. While a little lacking in story - at just 97 minutes it still feels light - if Elliott, like his character, was looking for a significant role to define his career in later life, he's found one.
Sam Elliott, Krysten Ritter
M (Sex scenes, offensive language & drug use)
Predictable story held together by great performances.
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