American Son DVD Review

Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
The cover for American Son is actually a pretty cool little cover.  It features Nick Cannon with an American flag in the background, and a silhouette of a soldier in full battle gear.  There is also a superimposed image of Melanie Diaz, who plays the main female lead in the movie.  It definitely sets the tone for this movie, which obviously focuses on a marine who is dealing with his own feelings before being sent off to fight in Iraq.

The menu features scenes from the movie, with a sepia colored theme.  It is average, but again the tone and the color match the movie.

Features: 4/10

  • Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary – There are two deleted scenes included, and they can be viewed with or without commentary by the movie’s director Neil Abramson, as well as the movie’s two producers Danielle Renfrew and Michael Roiff.
  • On Leave In Bakersfield: Behind The Scenes Of American Son – This 11 minute extra is a behind the scenes affair, which demonstrates some of the filming that took place in the dusty town of Bakersfield.  Bakersfield was an interesting choice for this movie’s backdrop, and really added to the stark, depressing feel of many of the scenes in the movie.  I liked the rehearsal scenes, followed by the final scenes as they showed the real process of making the movie.
  • Director Audio Commentary – Finally we get an audio commentary track, which features the director and the producers.  There is a lot of information given about the process, as expected, but overall I felt that this was a bit dry and hard to sit through.  Not bad, but definitely not great either.

The Movie: 8/10
American Son is a stark view of a Marine who has 96 hours to tie ends up before heading off to fight in Iraq.  Mike (Nick Cannon, who does a surprisingly good job in this role) meets Cristina (Melonie Diaz) on the bus as he heads back to his home town.  As they talk, Mike explains that he is a Marine, and when the talk turns to being sent to Iraq, Mike fails to inform Cristina that he is actually headed there in a few days.  The two hit is off and Mike ends up getting her phone number so that he can call her while he is at home.

Home is a dreary place full of Mike’s past, which as he sees it was a dead end.  His father is a chain smoking negative individual who has been beaten down by life, and Mike’s brother is a drug addict who lives in squalor and wants nothing to do with the family.  Mike’s friends are all stuck in the same rut of drinking and doing drugs, hanging out on the weekends and they basically act the same as they did when Mike was in high school.  Mike’s mother has a new significant other, who doesn’t really get along with Mike, and while she is very close and supportive to Mike, he fails to tell her that he is going to Iraq either.  By not telling his family or friends, Mike alienates a part of himelf which forces him to take on many of his issues himself.

Mike ends up spending more and more of his free time with Cristina instead of his family and friends.    He has no desire to hang out and do drugs, and he and Cristina grow closer and closer together, which makes the fact that he is leaving for Iraq more of an issue.  At one point Cristina asks Mike to visit her friends who has returned from Iraq having lost a leg to a roadside bomb.  The pain and emotion of the Mike’s struggles really comes to a head as he is forced to view the possibilities that await him on his tour of duty.

American Son is a slow building, character driven movie.  It is more of a documentary style of film than a Hollywood feature.  It is a tough watch, where we are shown the internal struggle of a young man facing his future, and his mortality all at once.  The acting is very good, and for a film like this it has to be.  I like the theme and style of the movie more than the actual experience, which dragged on a bit in places, but overall I thought American Son was well done.

Audio & Video: 6/10
It is hard to look at a standard DVD and hold it up to the same standards you rate a Blu-ray.  There obviously are limitations given the format.  With that said, I thought that the video for American Son was well done throughout.  There was intentional grain and the entire movie had a dusty, almost sepia feel, which added to the dreary feel of Mike’s existence at home.

The audio was good for dialogue, but somewhat underwhelming for everything else.

Value: 6/10
This is not a movie you will watch again and again, but it is a different view of a modern day issue facing many of our soldiers.  The way the movie is presented is not a real commentary on whether we should be in Iraq or not, but more of a glimpse at what some of our youth will face when they are told they have to go fight for our country in a war that has dragged on for so many years.  Most of us are aware that the war in Iraq is a deadly one, and American Son addresses the fact that many people who had no other option signed up with the armed forces and now have to deal with the reality of actually fighting in a country that is dangerous.  American Son is a view into that struggle, and overall it is a bleak and heart-wrenching movie.

Overall Score 6/10