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Bernie LaPlante is having a rough time. He's divorced, his ex-wife hates him, and has custody of their son. The cops are setting a trap for him, then to top it all, he loses a shoe while rescuing passengers of a plane crash. Being a thief who is down on his luck, he takes advantage of the rescue, but then someone else claims credit for it. Written by
HERO is a funny, smart, vastly underrated screwball comedy about mistaken identity, and what exactly it is that constitutes "heroism".
Dustin Hoffman plays Bernie Laplante, a small-time crook and generally unpleasant individual, who one rainy night is reluctantly drawn into helping rescue 54 passengers from a burning plane, after it has crashed into a Chicago bridge right in front of him! One of the survivors is Gale Gayley (Geena Davis), a glamorous news reporter, whose TV station decides to offer $1 million for an exclusive interview with the mysterious "Angel of Flight 104", who simply disappeared into the dark of the night before his act of bravery could be recognized, leaving one of his shoes behind amid the chaos.
However, the "Mr Cinderella" who subsequently steps forward to claim the reward, and thereafter becomes lionized by both the media and the public, is not Laplante (rather inconveniently locked up in jail at the time), but John Bubber (Andy Garcia), a handsome, charismatic, though destitute Vietnam veteran, who intends to share his new-found wealth with the city's homeless and other charitable causes. Bubber is able to convince as the real hero, because he gave Laplante a lift immediately after the accident (and is handed Laplante's second shoe as a thank-you, to "pay for the gas"), and thus heard the full story of Laplante's adventure firsthand.
British director Stephen Frears' third American outing (following 1988's DANGEROUS LIAISONS and 1990's THE GRIFTERS) was not a particular success at the box-office, and neither was it especially well-received critically. But I find that difficult to understand, as I think that HERO is probably the most downright enjoyable of all Frears' movies. The three leads are terrific - Davis looks sensational, Hoffman is suitably sleazy (and unexpectedly moving in scenes with his ex-wife, played by Joan Cusack, and his young son, James Madio), and Garcia injects his impostor role with warmth and credibility. The script (by the screenwriter of BLADE RUNNER and UNFORGIVEN) is bright and snappy, and there are fun, uncredited cameos from Chevy Chase (as Davis's pushy boss), Edward Herrmann (as a suicide victim - in a comedy? but yes it IS funny) and Fisher Stevens (as a film director, making a TV movie of the plane crash and using the real survivors as the actors).
HERO was known as ACCIDENTAL HERO (a more appropriate title, in my opinion) in various territories (including the UK), echoing, of course, one of Davis's earlier film triumphs, namely Lawrence Kasdan's splendid THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (1988). This was also where Davis reunited with Hoffman, 10 years after the former made her brief film debut in the latter's cross-dressing smash TOOTSIE. Finally, the excellent song played over the end credits is "Heart Of A Hero", written and performed by Luther Vandross.
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