Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the epitome of a straight-laced, hopeless romantic in '(500) Days of Summer.' Tom was a clean cut guy who just wanted to find his soul mate. Hesher, Gordon-Levitt's character here, is the anti-Tom. He delights in the destruction of public property, he dispenses perverted parables with ease, and he hones in on a young kid named T.J. (Devin Brochu) who's grieving from the recent loss of his mother.
T.J. is coming close to becoming a juvenile delinquent. Life has dealt him a crappy hand, and it's all he has to play with. With the loss of his mother, and the depression of his father (Rainn Wilson), young T.J. is left to sulk alone. It isn't healthy, and we soon see how off-kilter he really is. After a destructive visit to a neighborhood construction site, T.J. inadvertently draws attention to a squatter in one of the unfinished homes. A thin, dirty man with long jet black hair stomps out of the house and drags T.J. inside. From then on, Hesher is in T.J.'s life whether he likes it or not.
Make no mistake 'Hesher' is a very dark comedy full of very real dramatic themes. Life, love, and loss are all dealt with in a peculiar Hesher-like way. After Hesher barges into T.J.'s home and moves into the garage there's no getting rid of him. His father is too depressed to care, and his grandmother (Piper Laurie), actually takes a liking to him. She doesn't see the hostile outward exterior, only a person. Hesher takes to her too.
This is a very peculiar experience. I can understand why some people dislike it while others find it moving and hilarious. I'm in the latter group. It's an ambitious picture that pits young T.J. against the world. Hesher soon introduces him to his own messed up world of destruction and ends up guiding him through his most troubled times.
This movie may have some well known stars like Gordon-Levitt, Wilson, and Natalie Portman, but it's young Devin Bronchu who steals the show. You don't go into this movie thinking it's about him, but it is. Hesher is merely an alternative guardian devil of sorts. T.J. is confronting some real pain and adult emotions and Bronchu handles it beautifully. The kid knows how to act (and cuss). His potty-mouth tirades are both off-putting and oddly mesmerizing. This kid has a rough life and somehow he's getting through it. Sort of.
When it comes time for the movie to switch modes from destructive comedy to full on dramatic conclusion it works. Even Hesher has feelings, and he shows it in his own perverted way all the while teach T.J. and his father how to deal with loss and the stresses that they're going through.
Is 'Hesher' a perfect film, no, but director Spencer Susser takes a bold leap here. The character of Hesher is unlike any other, and Gordon-Levitt – being the great character actor that he is – nails it perfectly. You never know exactly what he's thinking or why he does what he does until the end of the film. Then you have to think back to Hesher's actions and realize that they did indeed help this family overcome their trials. In his own distorted way Hesher is only trying to help, he just may destroy all your stuff in the process.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate has packaged 'Hesher' in a standard Blu-ray keepcase and minted the movie on a 25-GB Blu-ray Disc. It's been coded as a Region A release.
'Hesher's 1080p AVC-encoded picture, for the most part, is a well defined, crisp experience. Edges are solid. The picture features a nice, albeit muted, color palette. At times it almost feels like you're watching a period piece from the 70s or 80s.
Fine detail like facial hair, pores, and the Hesher's crude tattoos are always clear and concise during the well-lit scenes. You can make out the woven textures of Paul's (Wilson) awful sweaters that he wears throughout the movie. Smoke from Hesher's many cigarettes puffs, billows, and drifts upward in smoothly rendered clouds.
Nighttime scenes are a tad unforgivable. Especially the scene where Hesher and T.J. go to light a neighborhood kid's car on fire. Shadows engulf the subjects on screen and rarely add much depth to the overall picture. Crushing is obvious during these scenes, but the daylight scenes feature shadows that provide detail and depth to the picture. While this is a strong looking transfer, I don't remember those nighttime scenes being that dark when I saw the movie at Sundance.
Lionsgate has gone with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix here, and what a mix it is. Other than some of the whispered dialogue being a tad soft, the rest of the soundtrack is a head-banging good time.
Hesher's brand of metal rock echoes through the soundtrack producing solid amounts of LFE. I loved the slightly tinny effect on the music when they're listening to rock inside Hesher's cavernous van. Dialogue, whether spoken or shouted, is always intelligible. You'll never miss any one of Bronchu's screeching, curse-filled monologues. At times Paul's lines a bit hard to hear, just because of the very somber way that Wilson plays the character. Being depressed all the time, has him whispering everyone of his lines.
Ambient noise and directionality are accurately represented here. The scene where Hesher destroys the swimming pool and the stuff surrounding it is one of the best scenes as far as audio is concerned. You can hear Bronchu and Portman having a conversation as the rears are banging and clanging as Hesher throws chairs, tables, and barbeques into the pool. This is very fun sound mix that makes use of all eight channels.
You may come to this film for Joseph Gordon-Levitt's tattooed wastoid with a penchant for vandalism, but you'll end up staying for Devin Bronchu's fine performance as a down-and-out kid who's just trying to deal with the death of his mother the best way he knows how. Lionsgate has released a strong Blu-ray here with nice video and energetic audio. The special features could've used some help. I would've loved an audio commentary featuring some or all of the movie's main participants. Alas, that wasn't to be. Still, 'Hesher' comes recommended for anyone who enjoys dark, cuss-happy, dramadies.