American Son
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (21st August 2009).
The Film

For some reason, the ďIraq War MovieĒ has yet to succeed, at least in the realm of a narrative film. While documentaries aim to tell the story of the war, numerous pictures have recently attempted to tell the story of the soldiers fighting that war. "American Son" directed by Neil Abramson, deals with Mike (Nick Cannon), and his last 96 hours in The States before his deployment into Iraq. Sadly, the story isnít an interesting one, and is muddled with poor editing, melodrama, and terrible acting.

Mike is on his way home to Bakersfield from basic training. On the way home, he eavesdrops on a girlís conversation on the phone, and over hears that she is headed to Bakersfield as well. Mike flirts with the girl, and she introduces herself as Christina (Melonie Diaz). Mike lies to her for some reason, claiming that heís in fact NOT going to Iraq. Mike rolls home, finding his little sister has been left alone by his uncaring step father (Tom Sizemore). Mike hooks up with his friends, who proceed to make fun of his hair, and attempt him to partake in drugs and prostitutes. Mike escapes all that and finds Christina. As time progresses, Mikeís relationships with his family, friends, and Christina all are tested.

The story itself isnít too original, but I just wish it had been handled with more finesse. I would have celebrated an engaging story of a young manís conflict between home and duty, friends and love, and family and service. However, the major themes of the movie are beaten over the audienceís head, at times literally being yelled out by some characters. While this is a major fault of the director, this is also inhibited by the inadequate cast. Nick Cannon, who I think makes a much better MC for "Americaís Got Talent" (2006-Present) than a dramatic actor, just doesnít have the chops to portray Mike. He spouts stereotypical line after stereotypical line, and when heís supposed to be sad or mad, heíd rather just purse his eyebrows than convey actual emotion. But Nick Cannon isnít alone in this. Matt OíLeary, who plays Mikeís old friend, is just terrible, and his acting talent could be rivaled by some low-budget YouTube features.

Looking at the film from a technical aspect also fails to yield positive results. It is sloppily edited together, with characters appearing in inconsistent positions, and shots that move too quick. Also, when looking at camera work, the film is very dull, offering nothing that is very interesting at all.

Iím still waiting for the film that tells the soldierís story in this modern war. I think, however, that people have gotten too trigger happy, and havenít let any perspective set in, and think that if you just make a movie about a soldier, set it to some sad music, and inject a love story, people will appreciate it. Well, I sure didnít.

Video

"American Son" is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic aspect ratio, and in terms of quality, thereís not allot to complain about, but thereís nothing really to celebrate either. The whole film has a very muted look, perhaps to mirror the dull life of people living in Bakersfield. Since thereís no colors to pop out, that transfer is adequate in what it is attempting to do, but at the same time, my eyes were getting immensely bored just looking at the screen.

Audio

"American Son" is presented in an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound transfer, and if it didnít say that on the box, I couldnít have told you that. There was a point where I literally put my ear to see if any sound was coming out of my rear speakers, and it was nothing beyond ambient. Granted, this isnít an action movie, but I still think that the utilization of ambient sounds in surround can be greatly involving, and here, like the picture, it just ended up putting me to sleep.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

"American Son" offers an audio commentary, some deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and bonus trailers. They are further explained below.

Included is a feature length audio commentary with director Neil Abramson and producers Danielle Renfrew and Michael Roiff. The three talk about the movie very technically, talking about why they shot the movie the way they did, and what it was like to shoot the movie on location in Bakersfield. Listening to this commentary track, there is no doubt in my mind that these people think they made an authentic movie, which is something that I disagreed with. It was sort of silly listening to the three talk about the drama of what I consider to be a very melodramatic movie.

There are two deleted scenes with optional audio commentary with director Neil Abramson and producers Danielle Renfrew and Michael Roiff. The two scenes are:

- "Beach Talk - Extended" which runs for 2 minutes and 9 seconds. In this scene, Mike and Christina talk about the war, and Mike deepens his lie about not going to Iraq.
- "Be Safe" which runs for 1 minute and 8 seconds. In this deleted scene, Mike drops off Christina at her parents house after their stay in a hotel, and offers a little bit more closure between the characters.

"On Leave in Bakersfield: Behind the Scenes of American Son" is a featurette which runs for 11 minutes and 37 seconds, chronicles the 20 day shoot, going day by day, and detailing which scene was shot that day. This footage is mostly raw, and shows the actual craft of making a movie, instead of just talking heads talking about making the movie. While I didnít really care about what was happening in the making-of , I like the format more than most. I like to have an actual behind-the-scenes look, from the perspective of on-set mini cams. Basically, this is an uninteresting making-of that was made interestingly.

Also included are some bonus trailers for:

- "Extract" which runs for 1 minute and 46 seconds.
- "Adventureland" which runs for 1 minute and 45 seconds.
- "Miramax Films" promo which runs for 2 minutes and 36 seconds.
- "Disney Blu-ray" promo which runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- "Anti-smoking" spot which runs for 34 seconds.
- "10 Things I Hate About You" which runs for 57 seconds.
- "Cheri" which runs for 1 minute and 23 seconds.
- "Scrubs: The Complete Eighth Season" which runs for 57 seconds.
- "Life on Mars" which runs for 1 minute and 4 seconds.
- "Lost: The Complete Fifth Season" which runs for 59 seconds.
- "The Proposal" which runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D Video: C Audio: C Extras: C Overall: D

 


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