Review: The Hero (2016)

The Hero (2016)

Directed by: Menno Meyjes | 95 minutes | crime, history, thriller | Actors: Monic Hendrickx, Fedja van Huêt, Daan Schuurmans, Susan Visser, Thijs Boermans, Kitty Courbois, Hans Croiset, Suus de Nies, Don Alphonso, Rob Das, Freek den Hartogh, Markoesa Hamer, Yannick Jozefzoon, Reyer Krikke, John Leddy, Lotte Proot, Khadija Stibchar, Tommy van Druten, Bilal Wahib

At the very least, you need tasty ingredients for a good dish. If the same applies to films, then you’ll be fine with the Dutch feature film ‘De Held’. This combination of drama and thriller is based on an acclaimed novel by Jessica Durlacher and made by a director with Hollywood experience (Menno Meyjes). Then we also have a cast to die for, including Fedja van Huêt, Monic Hendrickx and Kitty Courbois. And what does all that mean?

Anyway, a nice premise. A family of Dutch Jews returns to the Netherlands after a long stay in Los Angeles. The family (father, mother, son, teenage daughter) moves in with the paterfamilias and his wife in a large villa. From the moment they arrive, everything goes wrong. Mother is assaulted, daughter finds a bad boyfriend and ghosts from the past resurface. Ghosts that have everything to do with the war years.

Intriguing story, that’s for sure, but the scenario lacks focus and an overarching tension. Events hang together like loose sand and seem only to want to say that these are dangerous times for this Jewish family. A contractor with Nazi genes poses the greatest threat, aided by a handful of immigrants. Anyone who knows that the source material comes from the circle around writer and prophet Leon de Winter will have no trouble grasping the message. It may also not surprise them that the hero of the story goes for vigilantism.

You can’t judge a film by its ideas, of course, but by its imagination. And it is distressed. The Nazi is a caricature, which is especially annoying for the fine actor Daan Schuurmans. The attempts at humor are lousy (‘There’s no Business like Shoah-business’) and the dialogues are often unintelligible. When we do understand them, they are often little more than clichés. The main flaw is in the terrorized family. Although the makers are clearly trying to gain sympathy for the Silversteins, it remains a bunch of self-righteous cold frogs. Which, of course, doesn’t make their fate any less bad.

All these shortcomings make ‘The Hero’ a far too long sit, despite the meager 96 minutes. For a good dish you need tasty ingredients, but tasty ingredients don’t make a good dish. A stale cliché, befitting this unfortunate failure.

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