Accidental Hero, by David Webb Peoples
There are some interesting messages in this motion picture that has received little attention, especially if we consider that the director is Stephen Frears, the cast has stars like Dustin Hoffman, Geena Davis and Andy Garcia.
One can read about Dustin Hoffman and so many other actors, directors, filmmakers in the sensational Adventures in the Screen Trade by the winner of two Academy Awards – for the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men – William Goldman.
Dustin Hoffman comes across as somewhat – if not seriously – obnoxious, arrogant, self-absorbed in scenes on the set of Marathon Man, where he had the leading role – and he made efforts to highlight it – while the glorious Laurence Olivier held a supporting role, while he was very ill.
In Accidental Hero – which in a confusing manner is also called just Hero – Dustin Hoffman has the part of Bernie LaPlante, which considering the aforementioned assessment should be easy to portray – if we make an attempt at bad humor.
The main character is unlikeable, played with exaggerated, melodramatic accents, a strange, outré voice, and a walk that perhaps anticipates Rainman by Dustin Hoffman who could have done much better, giving the complexity of this personage.
In the first few scenes, we see the hero in court, where he stands accused, soon to be sentenced for crimes and while the judge, lawyer, witnesses, jurors and few people in the public are concentrated on someone else, the suspect takes the purse from his defense councilor and steals the money…
It is therefore clear from the start that we have a protagonist that has a flawed character, no values, talks soon to his son about how vicious the world is – a jungle – and the need to stay in hiding.
One can even wonder, perhaps even physically take the issue outside the cinema theater, thinking…
Why would I stay and look at this despicable guy?
However, the film has some very intriguing propositions, for very soon, an airplane crashes, just as the hero is trying to make his jalopy car move, in heavy rain – which is pouring he thinks because his windshield wipers do not work.
Bernie LaPlante approaches the wreck, helps passengers open the blocked exit door – therefore saving 54 people- walks inside through the smoke, gets one man named Smith out, then another, also taking care of the award-winning journalist Gale Gayley aka Geena Davis.
He promises one child, who is lost outside the crushed plane, to get in and save his parent and this is why he spends quite some time near the flames, mumbling, cursing, and complaining all the time…
When he gets Gale Gayley out, he is morose, and mentions that he does not do weightlifting, after that he is upset that he has lost one shoe of the pair, which is so luxurious, it had cost him one hundred dollars.
The hero is separated from his wife, Evelyn, and their son, Joey, who live now with a firefighter and when the Accidental Hero arrives at the house, he is obviously late, but when he tries to explain what has just happened, the mud on his face, his only shoe, the ex-spouse keeps interrupting.
When he tries to get to work the following day, the Hero gets a lift from another destitute man, John Bubber aka Andy Garcia, who listens to the story of the crash, the saving of the passengers, losing of the shoe.
Indeed, this man who is homeless, drives with hundreds of used aluminum cans that he sells for food and gas, suggests that the useless, if expensive shoe,. Could be used by a man with one leg – he thinks he remembers it is the “proper leg”.
Before getting off the soon to explode airplane, Bernie had stolen the bag of the famous reporter, who works for Channel Four, and he tries to sell the credit cards to a gang of criminals who turn out to be undercover detectives that arrest the hero who is also a villain.
While the savior spends time in prison, waiting for the previous sentence to come into effect and probably be added to the punishment for stealing the bag and cards, the managers of Channel 4 decide to offer one million dollars for the unknown hero, who would accept an interview with the network.
John Bubber comes forward – there are thousands who falsely claim they are the Cinderella hero – and he has the other shoe, to match what firefighters have found at the scene of the accident, where the missing loafer was found.
The public becomes enchanted, mesmerized by this Hero, who becomes an overnight celebrity, a Super Man, speaking about generosity, encouraging people to give to charity, whose past is exposed now – he was a hero in the war in Vietnam and he is belatedly awarded a medal for his bravery…
During a visit in a hospital, he even performs what is called a miracle, a boy who is in a coma wakes up after the visit of the Miracle Man and the crowds cheer this Saintly figure…
What about the real hero?
Well, he comes to claim the money…