Hey folks, Valkor here with the first look at Cuba Goodings Jr. latest flick; I'm not always a fan of his work, especially some of his newer films, which are just so-so in my opinion (i.e. Daddy Day Camp, Boat Trip, or Snow Dogs). But then he'll turn around and do some great films like Jerry Macguire, Boyz in the Hood, Outbreak, or his latest flick "Hero Wanted". Watch out for some spoilers. And I apologize for the lack of stills. I couldn't get a hold of any for the review, but I will update it when some come in.
Hero Wanted tells the tale of Liam Case, an empty shell of a garbage man who lost the love of his life when he was unable to rescue her in a car accident. Months/years later (I'm not sure, the film doesn't say how much time has passed since the accident) he rescues a young girl from a flaming car wreck, getting injured in the process and making him the town's local hero. He soon falls in love with a bank teller named Kayla (Christa Campbell). And one day Liam gets the nerve to talk to her while she's on duty. But the bank is held up and Kayla gets shot in the process. Liam goes to check on her and in doing so he gets shot, yet he survives his injuries. Kayla, however, is in a coma. So Liam decides to go after the guys, killing two of them. And now the remaining crooks seek vengeance. So Liam must confront the gangsters, ultimately dealing with the choices he made that started it all. But things are more than what they seem; as the film begins to unravel, you find out that Liam is not really the hero he ought to be. How the plot plays out, well if I'd seen this film say ten years ago, I wouldn't buy into it. However in our present society and the crazy shit people have done, I find the plot acceptable and believable.
The story of "Hero Wanted" plays out like a puzzle, where the past and present are like the pieces and the entire picture doesn't become clear until all the pieces come together. Everything is played out through flashbacks and watching it the first time, is a bit disorienting. The film jumps from the past to the present starting out with the car accident that kills Liam's wife, jumping to the present where he's drunk at a bar and getting knocked on his ass by the bartender, and jumping again to the past where he's mellowing on the couch thinking of his wife and unborn child. This series of back and forth is a bit disorienting because there are times you don't know where you are until the scene plays itself out. However, you actually benefit with a second viewing as you get a better feel for the film. Yes, I took the opportunity to watch it twice and believe me it really is better with the second time around. The last film I watched like this was Fight Club, first sit through was great but man it made my head hurt. The second time you kind of get that "oh I get it!" feel. Everything builds up to a climatic shootout, with a so-so ending. Personally, I wanted the film to end right after Liam and Kayla were holding hands and Liam passed out from being shot up, and with his the final words he narrates at the end of the film "redemption is a funny thing. Sometimes you have to go through hell to get it". After that you don't need to know if he lives or dies, you just need to know that in the end, he's still a hero.
I gotta give kudos to director Brian Smrz for tackling a film with such a unique approach; I know a film such as this couldn't have been easy to handle, but I believe he pulled it off with stride. Also, a round of applause as this is Brian's first outing as director (According to IMDB) and I think it's a job well done. Writers Chad and Evan Law also deserve some accolades as the writing is pretty tight and the actors handled their dialogue with ease, with everyone amazingly falling into their roles.
On the negative side, I didn't really embrace Cuba's role in the film; I mean I liked him in the film, but I wasn't entirely feeling him, you know? I think his voice and his face are just too soft to really bring out the full angst of the character. But I think he's passable, as Liam is the kind of guy you want to feel sorry for, be pissed at, then cheer for, all at the same time. There are some scenes such as when Liam talks to Kayla for the first time, you feel kind of bad for the guy, I mean he looks pitiful and it really tugs at the heart strings.
The film is rounded out with a great cast. Ray Liotta makes an appearance as Detective Terry Subcott, but he comes off more like the comic relief than a serious cop trying to investigate a murder. His character doesn't do a lot and really isn't all that integral to the story. Yet, he hams it up nicely when he is on screen. Jean Smart, who plays Kayla's mom Melanie, also does some fine work. I'll admit, I was a big fan of Designing Women and her character Charlene. And looking up her work on IMDB I see she's had an amazing and extensive acting/voice acting career since. And she still looks mighty fine. Although her role is in the film is brief, she gives a damn good performance. Norman Reedus plays Swain though I haven't seen this guy since Blade 2, I really enjoyed his work in Hero Wanted. But the best of the bunch is Tommy Flannagan who plays Derek. I fucking love this Scottish bastard. The accent really accentuates his role, and he is just bad ass. I mean anytime Tommy is on screen, he shines.
Hero Wanted is not the greatest story ever told, and it certainly won't win any major awards, but it's definitely worth the price admission. With a unique approach, some decent acting and a nice chunk of action makes "Hero Wanted" worth picking up. The film will have a limited theatrical run, leading up to its DVD release on April 29th. Sony is responsible for distributing here in the states, and my advice guys, just go full on theatrical release. It's worth it. And in the end, I'm giving "Hero Wanted" 4 out of 5 stars.