There are few honors for actors as great as having a movie written specifically for them. Unfortunately, The Hero, written for and starring Sam Elliott, forgets that a film needs more than just a great performance.
Elliott is perhaps best known for his work in Westerns and as The Stranger, the mysterious cowboy narrator of The Big Lebowski. His gaunt face and walrus mustache are instantly recognizable, as is his deep, rumbling voice.
In The Hero, directed and co-written by Brett Haley, Elliott plays Lee Hayden, another actor best known for Westerns. But Hayden’s best days are behind him. The acting roles have dried up, so he lives off commercials. Hayden is divorced, with an estranged daughter, and he spends most days smoking mammoth quantities of weed with his friend Jeremy (Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman). His malaise is interrupted by the warring forces of fate: his career is suddenly revived with new film offers at the same time as he receives a frightening cancer diagnosis.
Elliott is the one shining spot of The Hero, and it’s nearly impossible to look away from his weathered features. The rest of the film is rough and dull. Haley’s view of Hollywood is hopelessly antiquated, and his devotion to Elliott robs the supporting actors of any life. Offerman can effortlessly glide between comedic and dramatic modes, but there’s no room for that nuance here.
Sam Elliott is an actor deserving of great roles in great films, but The Hero is just empty hero-worship.