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DVD Review: American Son

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Earning a Grand Jury Prize nomination at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Miramax Films presents American Son, an underdeveloped and ineffective character study that benefits from the acting chops of its leads and a few moments that portray an accurate portrait of an American soldier and his farewell to his family and friends before he deploys to Iraq.

With just 96 hours to say his goodbyes and make peace with his friends and family, Mike Holland (Nick Cannon) finds himself in a difficult situation when he meets the love of his life and, in just four days, has to find a gracious way to inform her, his friends, and his family of his departure.

I was expecting a more complete storyline, probing the difficulties of the situation itself. From that perspective, American Son fails to resonate emotionally. Instead, you're left with a beat-boxing and drug-crazed exposition, complete with prostitutes and a violent look at the slums of Los Angeles. In that aspect, it's full of cliches and ultimately disappointing.

Director Neil Abramson's reflection on war has potential (see his previous work Soldier Child) and does a nice job of making a few good points, but ultimately misfires with his path being an unconnected, off-balance one. The truth is that the film often falls off track and doesn't have the necessary power to find its way back again.

It's the sensational performances by Nick Cannon and Matt O'Leary that keep the film compelling, despite the fact that its attempts to make a statement fall flat. Given that the film does have a some good moments to offer, I don't discourage people from seeing it. It's far from a poorly made film, just a routine one that doesn't have much creativity at its core. What you're left with is something that's been done before, and in a much better fashion. It's not the first film featured with sex, drugs, and hostilities and it certainly won't be the last.

This indie film's special features are limited to three which aren't particularly interesting or entertaining. These sections include "On Leave in Bakersfield: Behind the Scenes of American Son" which is a walk-through of the filming process, two deleted scenes appropriately removed from the film with optional commentary, and feature length audio commentary by director Neil Abramson and producers Danielle Renfrew and Michael Roiff.

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