American Heart (1992)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Following up on Streetwise, his powerful documentary on the homeless kids of Seattle, director Martin Bell returned to that city for a dramatic feature. Nick Kelson (Edward Furlong) is a troubled teenager whose mother has been dead for many years; he spends much of his time with other throwaway kids roaming the city. When Nick's father Jack (Jeff Bridges) is released from a long stretch in prison, the father and child reunion is a bumpy one. Jack senses an obligation to his son but is trying to focus on taking responsibility for his own life before he can extend himself. Nick is wary of his father's criminal background, but he also craves the stability of a real home life. Aware that a return to the city whose mean streets spawned his criminal career might pull him back into his old ways, Jack talks about moving to Alaska to make a fresh start, but it's not clear if Nick is part of his plan. The film's unsentimental look at its characters always on the verge of backsliding didn't endear it to ticket buyers, but it was lauded by many critics for its honesty and for Bridges' strong performance, which won an Independent Spirit award.
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Jeff Bridges
as Jack Kelson
Edward Furlong
as Nick Kelson
Lucinda Jenney
as Charlotte
Don Harvey
as Rainey
Melvyn Hayward
as Normandy
Kit McDonough
as Landlady
Maggie Welsh
as Freddie
Marcus Chong
as Terry Cosmos
John Boylan
as Janitor
Greg Sevigny
as Young Jack
Barbara Irvin
as Nicole
Willie Williams
as Gospel Fireball
Burke Pearson
as Jack's Bum
Todd Jamieson
as Suburban Father
Roosevelt Franklin
as Gospel Fireball
Cristine McMurdo-Wallis
as School Administrator
Loyd Catlett
as Vernon the Bartender
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Critic Reviews for American Heart

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (6)

It's a pity that the plot culminates in a slew of melodramatic contrivances that leave a lot of strands hanging.

Full Review… | January 30, 2015
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Not since "Straight Time" with Dustin Hoffman has there been a film that more convincingly depicted the plight of the ex-con in his struggle to earn an honest living than the engaging "American Heart."

Full Review… | January 30, 2015
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

A gritty, well-meaning drama about a father and son on the fringes of society.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

Compassionate; moving; heavy-going.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It's time to recognize Mr. Bridges as the most underappreciated great actor of his generation.

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Never feels real for a second.

Full Review… | January 30, 2015
TV Guide

Audience Reviews for American Heart

An ok movie. Edward Furlong was good, as usual...

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

An ex-con with dreams of starting a new life reunites with his son. In 1993 it was impossible to view this as I see it now: Jeff Bridges was practicing for his role in Crazy Heart. Everything that is good about Bridges's Oscar-winning performance is in American Heart, the music, the quiet desperation, the emotional depths to which he sinks, and of course, the hair. Edward Furlong, whose voice seems untutored but natural, matches Bridges in intensity. However, I thought that the story was predictable and the plot contrived. You know the ending as soon as you meet Rainey, and the film doesn't tell us anything new about troubled youth. Overall, the highlights are the stars, who give emotional and committed performances.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Edward Furlong is one of my favorite actors. Jeff Bridges is one of the top actors in Hollywood, and while not on my top 10 list, he's still a brilliant actor. So, American Heart should have been an awesome film! I knew from reading reviews, that it was gonna be strange, but while most people liked it, I did not! The story follows an ex-con trying to restart his life, and his estranged, runaway son, that he just can't get rid of. The background is great, but the film sucks, seriously all you see is these people going about their everyday business! Nothing really happens, you feel no connection to the characters whatsoever, and there is really no reason to care about what is happening!? Just go follow two random people on the street for a couple days and watch them go about their everyday life and you'll know what this awful film was like.

Todd Smith
Todd Smith

Super Reviewer

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