In his nearly five decades of acting, Sam Elliot is frequently one of the top five western stars that come to mind when you imagine an oater. He typifies what a real cowboy looked like in the old west - lean and tough. His deep voice adds to the aura.


We liked him in "Tombstone" and even "Road House" where he played a veteran bouncer at a country music saloon with Patrick Swayze and now he comes to play a veteran actor named Lee whose career has long since ridden into the sunset. The film opens with him repeatedly reciting the voiceover to a barbecue sauce ad.


Much like many veteran actors whose heyday have passed, Lee sits at home waiting for that one call from his agent that there is a script for him to read. There is no call. Instead he visits an old acting friend named Jeremy (Nick Offerman) who provides Lee with adequate amounts of pot to smoke.

One day, while at Jeremy's place, another customer, Charlotte (Laura Prepon) is making a purchase and strikes up a lightweight conversation. It turns out she is an local stand-up comedian who has a thing for older guys.


They begin to hit it off just as Lee learns he has late stage cancer and not much time to live. Suddenly, he is faced with his own mortality and unresolved relationship issues with is estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). It seems he wasn't much of a father when she was young and though her mother (played by Katharine Ross) holds no ill feelings, Lucy does.


Things really get interesting when, during a lifetime acting award presentation, his comments and shenanigans are recorded and posted on social media bringing him a sudden resurgence in popularity. Offers start rolling in, he's in a sexual relationship with a younger woman and things are looking like he'll go out with a bang and not a whimper. But he still has issues with his daughter and isn't quite sure of himself.


Director Brett Haley ("I'll See You In My Dreams" also with Elliot) adds a lot of artsy-fartsy flashbacks and cutaway scenes of Lee's greatest role in an old film called The Hero. First Lee's in the Old West, then he's next to the ocean watching the tide roll out. Yes, lot of symbolism; maybe a bit too much as it detracts from the story. It would have been nice to know what he did or didn't do that has his daughter despising him so much. Or they could have expanded Ross's role.


Elliott, however is flawless as Lee. He flashes his trademark mustache and rumbles out that smooth bass voice and you immediately remember him as a "Rough Rider" (1997) or as Wild Bill Hickok in "Buffalo Girls".


"The Hero" perfectly casts Elliott in a role that he represents very well, the old cowboy riding off into the sunset. Very few could pull it off as well; all it's really missing is a horse for him to ride!   -- GEOFF BURTON