The main thing that keeps Brett Haley’s The Hero from falling squarely into the Old Sad Bastard genre is the presence of the man who’s long proved that it’s possible to be simultaneously grizzled and hella sexy: national treasure Sam Elliott. A former Western actor reduced to doing voice-overs for commercials, Lee Hayden (Elliott) spends much of his time smoking out with his pal and dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman).
Elliott and Offerman as stoners could be an entire movie right there, but Lee also learns he has pancreatic cancer, attempts to use accidental viral stardom to revive his career, and tentatively enters into a relationship with stand-up comedian Charlotte (Laura Prepon) while also trying to mend fences with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). To its credit, The Hero acknowledges and examines in dialogue that Charlotte is Lucy’s age — not to mention that Prepon and Ritter could pass for sisters — before Lee and Charlotte consummate their relationship. The well-worn plot is ultimately not as important as the simpler, moment-to-moment pleasures of hanging out with Elliott as he indulges in some of the best drugs — pot, ’shrooms, and ecstasy! — and while the picture’s a testament to Elliott’s enduring charisma, it also functions as a stealth tribute to the greatest action hero of all, Buster Keaton.
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema