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on March 25, 2000
Veteran underrated actor Jeff Bridges is complete- ly believeable as a freshly released convict back on the streets of Seattle. His estranged son, young teen actor Edward Furlong (Terminator II), attaches himself, searching for a crumb of family he never had. Streetwise and antisocial, the dad dreams of a new life in Alaska, taking his son with him through the dream. Yet the harsh despair of the streets, poverty, and society's underbelly tug against the two, struggling to have a life and learn who each other is. A perfect study on the barriers which society and economics put before an ex-offender in American society. Recommended for its raw authenticity and acting, not for warm fuzzies.
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on January 19, 2004
This film has an excellent cast rising above some lackluster material you have seen before in other "angry ex-con" driven stories.
Jack (Jeff Bridges) is a recently released convict who tries to dump his fifteen year old son Nick (Edward Furlong) in the very first scene. Jack heads to Seattle, with Nick following, in order to set up a new life without the bothers of fatherhood. Jack meets with his old partner in crime Rainey (Don Harvey), who pays Jack a little money. Jack gets a job washing windows on high rise buildings, and settles into a small apartment.
And then there is Nick. He has left Jack's sister's farm to live with him. He skips out on registering for school, and hangs around some homeless street kids downtown. Jack is boozing his way through Seattle, meeting up with Charlotte, who used to write him by way of a personals magazine called "American Heart." Nick gets a job delivering newspapers, and Nick and Jack share their little apartment, upstairs from a topless dancer and her troubled teen daughter Molly (Tracey Kapisky).
The film then meanders through scenes of Jack and Nick arguing, then grudgingly making up, trying to develop some sort of normal relationship. Rainey cannot get Jack to come back to crime, but he does eventually get Nick to serve as a lookout for a job. Jack is saving for an impossible dream of moving to Alaska, and Nick wants to help. Nick and Molly grow closer, and Nick shoplifts a pair of shoes for her. Jack discovers the merchandise, along with some weed. Rainey robs Jack, who is also evicted and fired from his job.
Eventually, the cast begins spiraling downward, as Nick gets involved in a burglary for Rainey that goes horribly wrong, and Molly begins taking after her mother. Jack and Nick decide to leave Seattle, but Jack needs to take care of one more thing first...
Martin Bell was responsible for "Streetwise," the gritty documentary about homeless street kids that is among the greatest documentaries ever produced. He used this experience with this fictional film, but I found this screenplay often resorted to Hollywood convention. The ex-con trying to make it on the outside has been done, but maybe not this well acted before.
I wish Jeff Bridges would just win an Oscar. His performance here is wonderful. He is flawed, and his behavior is innate. He does not want a relationship with Nick, and makes that all too obvious without resorting to stereotypical behavior. Bridges even has a light moment, when Jack's parole officer Normandy (Melvyn Hayward) is banging on the apartment door, and a hungover Jack finds underage Molly fast asleep at the foot of his bed.
Furlong, who I have never liked in anything, gives his best performance here, too. I noticed his scenes where he plays opposite adults are more effective than when he is dealing with his teenage contemporaries. He is sympathetic without being saintly or cutesy. Jack and Nick's argument in the apartment, where Nick smashes a treasured ukulele, is strong stuff. Lucinda Jenney as Charlotte is also good, although Bell unwisely drops her character from the last part of the film after we have become so involved with her. While Don Harvey as Rainey is okay, there is a mentor relationship with Jack that is never fully explored. He looks Furlong's age, someone with a harder edge may have made more of an impact.
"American Heart" is a decent film that should be sought out for the acting. Jeff Bridges deserves all the praise he has ever received, and this film should have given him more than he got.
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on September 13, 2010
This is exactly the type of movie that I can truly appreciate. It's a slice-of-life drama, filmed on a very low budget, and dealing with characters who are not stylized or glamorous or trendy.

Jeff Bridges and Edward Furlong play father and son. Furlong was a great kid actor - quite naturalistic and displaying no harmful Hollywood showbizzy effects. In this film, he portrays a solemn, lonely, hard-luck kid who seldom has any particular reason to be hopeful about anything yet never gets entirely beaten down by the nasties that Fate keeps throwing his way. I really like this kid and his sad-eyed toughness.

Bridges also is pretty close to perfect as the ex-con Dad. In some ways, the father is the grown-up version of the son. They are both fighting some of the same internal battles. However, the Dad is beginning to run out of steam. His dreams are withering inside him and cannot be sustained. But his weaknesses will serve to educate the son and hopefully the son will be able to avoid at least some of his father's failures in life. It will all be worth it in that case.

This is clearly a quiet little film with quiet little moments about small-time characters leading small-time lives. This is the kind of story that I can really can get into. I loved it.
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on December 1, 2015
This movie is a really good one. Great story line, kept me entertained all the way through. A very interesting dynamic between the father and son even if it is kind of a sad one. I will admit that I rented it to see it mainly because Jeff Bridges was in it and he is one of my favorite actors. He didn't dissappoint, in fact none of the actors did.
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on January 4, 2012
A very powerful, honest, un-sentimentalized look at a hardened ex-con
trying to build a life with his 12 year old son.

One of those special films that got a lot of great reviews, but
never found its audience, and disappeared.

Jeff Bridges gives a towering performance, subtle, real, quiet, angry,
scary, withdrawn and heartbreaking.

The film and supporting cast around him often matches Bridges' high level of
work, although some of the sub plots involving Edward Furlong as the son feel
a bit more obvious and schematic than the grown-up world sections of
the film.

None-the-less, a powerful, honest look at how hard making it once
you're down really is.

It's very frustrating that this is only available on DVD in 4:3. The
film deserves better treatment. But despite that flaw this is very worth
seeing.
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on March 14, 2005
I am suprised how many have not seen American Heart, but for some reason this movie was fated to be a sleeper gem waiting to be discovered by the fortunate few. Good performances all around, a sensible script, and most importantly not too much syrup, unlike a lot of other family dramas that lay it on a bit too thick. If you like realism and want a film that explores the plot described above, then this is an excellent choice.

(...)

Furlong's characters exhibit reserve, introversion, and recklessness. Part of his character, not to say charm, is a mysterious dark side which may have a basis in reality, if media reports are to be believed.
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on March 1, 2003
Having previously bought the Artisan release of "Mountains of the Moon", I was hoping that this labeling was faulty just as the labeling had been on that disc. Both DVD's were labeled as standard versions. Whereas "Mountains of the Moon" was, in reality, a widescreen presentation, "American Heart" is sadly fullscreen, just as the packaging indicates. Why do companies, such as Artisan, insist on releasing movies in fullscreen?! Like many other viewers, I abhor pan and scan.
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VINE VOICEon January 29, 2009
Jeff Bridges is definitely one of the best actors of his generation. Every time I watch him I'm baffled at just how naturally brilliant he is. I'm also baffled that he has yet to pick up an Oscar for his tremendous work, or the fact that he's been nominated for quite possibly his weakest performances yet snubbed entirely for his most impressive.

`American Heart' is one of his most impressive.

When I sat down to watch this film my only motivation was that of Mr. Bridges. I expected yet another sappy generic melodramatic film complete with clichés and manipulated emotions, but Jeff Bridges was enough to make me give it a try. What left me most impressed was the fact that it was none of those things. Sure, it had layers of predictability in the plot and subplot, but it was so honest in its delivery. It never feels forced even in moments when the director and the actors could have easily taken down the path most traveled. For instance, in a scene possessing a major character arch for Bridges he plays it with distilled emotions instead of flying into hysterics like most actors would feel urged to play it. He manages to appear real, and thus the film appears real.

`American Heart' tells the story of recently released convict Jack and his teenage son Nick. Jack doesn't know how to be a real citizen, let alone a father, but his desire to be a part of his son's life gives him the incentive to at least try. Nick is a wayward son, falling into his father's footsteps, but Jack is trying his hardest (even if at times it seems otherwise) to mold him in another direction.

The film is barely anything more than just that; a story about a father and a son, and it benefits from the simplicity. It allows us to get to know these two characters (based on real life runaway Dewayne and his father) and thus makes their development all the more effecting on us. I was very impressed with the direction taken here, the way the film seemed to effortlessly unfold with such subtle honesty, which is not what I expected at all.

My only complaint is the clichéd ending, which I was dreading would come. Even in it's clichés though, it is far from manipulative but remains just as subtle and raw as the rest of the film, so I cannot really fault the film for `going there'.

Jeff Bridges is phenomenal here, as per usual, but maybe even more so. This reminds me of his more subdued work in stellar films like `The Door in the Floor' and `The Baker Boys' (his two finest performances, yet both Oscar snubbed; go figure). He is brutally honest in his depiction on this man; no forced hysterics and emotional outbursts to contend with. He tells it like it is, and that is refreshing to see. Edward Furlong does a fine job interacting with Bridges; they have a nice chemistry. Lucinda Jenney (who looks a lot like Naomi Watts) is effective in her role, but she is merely a subplot and not really all that important to the unfolding of the film.

This is a film that is not seen by many but should be. I'm sure many have not even heard of it (this is the eleventh review for the film, so there you have it). Look it up, check it out and enjoy. This is a truly believable and engrossing father/son bonding film that will leave you satisfied.
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on December 2, 2007
What does Jeff Bridges have to do to win an Academy Award? Looking through his body of work, I am amazed. He has worked hard in the industry, taking leads or characters that may have seemed silly to some and transformed them into iconic cinematic masterpieces. Who else could pull off "the Dude" as well as he could? It is my belief that both he and Jeff Daniels (whose role in "The Squid and the Whale" should have catapulted his popularity) will be the ones to watch in the growing future, if they are already not at the top of their game. I recently stumbled upon one of Jeff Bridges early pieces entitled "American Heart" and was again impressed with his ability to take a cliché character coupled with a choppy story and transform it into a meaningful, albeit mediocre, film. Bridges pulls in other actors, he defines the scenes, and forces you to see beyond the words and image and nearly jump headfirst into the life of whichever character he is currently playing; in this case it is ex-convict Jack whose son has followed him to Seattle to rebuild his life. This is one of those family dramas which connects two different souls, a father and a son, and gives us a glimpse into their rebuilding life. It is a film about second changes and how the choices we make ultimately effects the outcome. It is not a heavy drama, but stands above the regular rumble due in part to Bridges' amazing charisma and the tight direction by director Martin Bell. While not all elements work in this independent feature, it is the power and raw nature of the good parts that make this itty-bitty feature shine.

Jeff Bridges. Even in the early 90s he was making powerful cinema with strong characters and dedicated roles. "American Heart" could have easily fallen into the category of desperate father/son reunion fare, but instead it jumps beyond that into a world all its own thanks to our leading man, Mr. Jeff Bridges. He is nothing short of flawless in this film. His body image, his tone, his strength/courage/fears are all incredibly real and developed. When you watch "American Heart", you do not see Bridges playing a father role, but instead see the character of Jack in every scene. Through those squinty eyes and burly biceps, through the years of prison life dutifully planted behind his long, pony-tail hair, his youthful troubles beautifully (albeit randomly) placed throughout this story, Bridges becomes Jack. He becomes a man who has seen more in life than we have time to see, but yet we can see it through Bridges' character. Bridges is the lead and the obvious scene-stealer of this film and there is no way to deny his excellence. It is due to his ability that the other characters fall in line. Those surrounding him, Edward Furlong, Lucinda Jenney, Tracey Kapisky, and Don Harvey are devoted characters, but they do not measure up to what Bridges is pouring. The coupling of Bridges and a young Furlong is exceptional, but for me, it could have been more. They are father and son, the connection there is obvious, but it is when Furlong explores on his own, symbolically following in his father's footsteps, that we see a lack of character. He becomes annoying and more childish than mature. This is a growth film for Furlong, and in my opinion, there wasn't enough growing for Furlong to really make that pivotal change by the end. He should have had more interaction with Charlotte, who isn't used enough to perhaps add conflict between the two men. She is one of Bridges' backbone character, but is only used as more eye-candy for the screen. Then there is Bridges' old business associate who just happens to follow the rulebook for cliché, he was my least favorite character and more filler than necessary. My point? Without Bridges this would have been a forgettable film.

Characters were beautifully placed. Bridges claims this to be his favorite film, and his heart, his entire heart is in the character, but Peter Silverman's script could have used more grit. There was still a sensation of sugarcoating involved with the story. How simple was it for Nick (Furlong) to get to his dad, to not have to go to school, to live on the streets - these were are too simple for someone who may not have had the real-life experiences yet like his father. This doesn't mean that the story wasn't dark. This is a story of a family with nothing, who strives to have nothing more than just freedom and each other - it is a dark story and Martin Bell did a phenomenal job of making sure that we weren't distracted with unnecessary emotional pitfalls. His camera work and direction paired well with Bridges' powerful work, but it again goes back to the downfall of the story that will not allow me to give this film a perfect score. The relationship between Furlong and his pseudo-girlfriend is annoying, and ultimately distracting from the real story. There is no chemistry or emotion there, so when he tries to "free" her, it just feels like an event that needed to happen instead of "should be" happening. The stripper mother story, again, too much filler. Thankfully, these are all used up in the center of the film giving us a strong beginning and an emotionally beautiful ending. Powerful acting, strong direction, tight camera work - a couple of more hours spent on the script and "American Heart" would be an instant addition to the collection.

Overall, I liked "American Heart" because of the true work that everyone put into it. This was a project of passion, a story with characters that everyone wanted to be involved with no matter the chunkiness of the story. Bridges needs to win an Oscar, he should have won for this film. You, as a viewer, cannot keep you eyes off him as he struggles with the new life in Seattle and dreams of Alaska. Martin Bell understands the streets, or at least early 90s streets, and while the image of this film doesn't withstand the test of time, the overall tones and themes are powerful and unforgiving. Furlong tried to keep up with Bridges, but it was impossible. There were times he was just too childish and annoying, completely destroying the conventional character developed from the beginning. There are great moments in this film that stand apart from the classic Hollywood recycle, and for that I must give "American Heart" credit. If released today, I think it would be a runaway success, it would be a word of mouth film, while I cannot add it to my collection, it will be a film I will strongly suggest to others. Jeff Bridges. Can you believe the work he did in this film? The man has an undeniable eye for the trade that he is in, and he should not be afraid to exploit it further. With "American Heart", Bridges has rejuvenated my hope to find a great American actor.

Bravo Mr. Bridges, Bravo!

Grade: **** out of *****
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on March 29, 2007
My favorite actor is Edward Furlong (not just in this movie but in all of his movies) and this is in my opinion his best. This movie fortunately was an indipendant film and was not a hollywood movie (Hollywood messes a lot of things up with popularity) All of the actors are great the script is really good and the end is good and sad (the whole movie is very dramatic which is the thing i like about it besides the actors , furlong being number one) this movie has irony as well (you'll know when you see it) and massive realistic drama. if you like dramatic movies that arent shrouded in popularity and is filled with awesome actors, a sad ending and plus a good backround soundtrack, this is a perfect movie. (you'll be very suprised on how many kid stars there are and how good of actors they are.) plus it's made in Seattle and theres a good amount of punk rockers in it (suprisingly theres not too much grunge since it was made when grunge was mainstream0 ENJOY IT AS MUCH AS I DID
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