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Sam Elliott

“THE HERO” My rating: B- 

93 minutes |MPAA rating: R

Some of us would be content to watch Sam Elliott, he of the sonorous voice and luxurious ‘stache, sit in a lawn chair reading the phonebook.

It doesn’t quite come to that in “The Hero,” one of Elliott’s rare starring roles, though Brett Haley’s film recycles plot points that have been picked over so many times there’s not much meat left.

No, the reason to watch “Hero” is, quite simply, Sam Elliott, who at age 72 exudes more raw charisma and sex appeal than actors a fraction of his age.

This is what I want to be when I grow up.

Elliott plays Lee Hayden, a white-haired actor who back in the ’70s was the star of Westerns. Lee’s career, though, has faded with the popularity of the cinematic oater.  As “The Hero” begins he’s doing commercial voice-over work: “Lone Star Barbecue Sauce: The perfect pardner for your chicken.”

Whoa. Deja vu all over again.  Remember Elliott’s distinctive voice telling us in radio ads: “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner”?  This is only the first time “The Hero” will dip into the meta pool,  drawing on Elliott’s own career to create his on-screen character.

Early on in Haley and co-writer Marc Basch’s screenplay Lee learns that he has pancreatic cancer.  As Samuel Johnson observed, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Slowly, hesitantly, painfully, Lee attempts to reach out to those who have meant something to him but whom he has ignored in recent years…especially his ex-wife Valarie (Katharine Ross, the real-life Mrs. Elliott) and his embittered grown daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter, star of Netflix’s “Jessica Jones”).

In truth, Lee’s only friend appears to be his pot dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman), a former actor who lives in a cannabis haze watching Buster Keaton comedies. Not the worst lifestyle. (more…)

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