Hero (1992)

 

A mess, though very often an enjoyable one, thanks to the cast. Dustin Hoffman has one funny moment after another as Bernie La Plante, a chiselling bum who happens upon a plane wreck and pulls some passengers to safety. Among the survivors is news reporter Gale Gayley (Geena Davis), who mounts a campaign to track down “the Angel of Flight 104” (she didn’t get a good look at Bernie’s mud-covered face). Meanwhile, Bernie hitches a ride from another bum, John Bubber (Andy Garcia), a ‘Nam vet who lives in his car; when the news station offers $1 million for an interview with the “Angel,” Bubber comes forward with “proof” — a shoe Bernie gave him (having lost the other one at the crash site). Instantly, Bubber is lionized by the entire country, while Bernie fumes in jail.

Hero has an interesting premise, but the unfocused script by David Webb Peoples (can this be the same man who wrote the same year’s masterful Unforgiven?) veers between tired satire and Capra-esque uplift. The two forms collide, producing not sparks but dull noise. Though she has nothing to do, Davis is sometimes touching as a woman who’s ready to believe in a hero no matter who he is. Garcia, however, shouldn’t be playing virtuous roles like this. (Bubber fakes everyone out but feels terrible about it; the movie would have more point if he started to believe his own press and became a real fake.) It’s a measure of the movie’s confusion about its subject that when Bubber makes an impassioned speech about the hero in all of us and the cynical station chief (an unbilled Chevy Chase) yells “Bullshit!”, it gets a big laugh. Hero probably read better as an unproduced screenplay than it actually plays. But for fans of the cast (including two members of the Cusack clan) it’s worth a rental.

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