If you aren’t an uberfan of Metallica, chances are you never heard of Hesher—the film. And what exactly is the plotting of a film featuring the music of Metallica? Heath Ledger’s The Joker sums up Hesher, the man, best with these words of wisdom:
“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just ‘do’ things. Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos.”
That’s Hesher: an anarchy-inducing car chaser. Hesher has no why. Hesher is just Hesher.
This is Hesher.
The reason uber-Metallica fans know about Hesher is because—after rebuffing numerous requests by Hollywood’s music consultants to use the thrash metal pioneer’s music on film soundtracks—Hesher became the first movie to feature their music (outside of the band’s own films: Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004) and Metallica Through the Never (2013), of course). To the ex-bullied, black-clothed thrash metal heads: Hesher was our youth (as is the juvenile misanthrope doppelganger, River’s Edge).
The adventures of Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and his young charge, T.J, is a simple, yet dynamic tale. Hesher—the film—is Alan Ormsby (Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things) and Tony Bill’s (The Sting) teen comedy My Bodyguard on a cocaine-heroin speedball. Hesher would kill and cook Matt Dillon’s bully Melvin Moody for lunch. And, unlike bodyguard Ricky Linderman, Hesher probably has killed people. And Matt Dillon’s Ritchie White in Over the Edge probably, eventually would—if not for a crazed Officer Doberman and an unloaded gun.
Hesher is the bodyguard from hell that would have burnt New Granada, Colorado to the ground: he introduces anarchy and causes chaos in high school freshman T.J’s life, then comes to the scrawny dweeb’s rescue. Ah, but as with The Joker, Hesher “isn’t a monster, he’s just ahead of the curve.” Hesher sees his younger self in T.J—and he’s going to toughen up his “Robin” and get him ahead of the curve.
T.J is a young boy who fell into a state of depression following his mother’s death in a car accident, which caused his father’s descent into a self-loathing, passive pill-popping state. They lost everything and have resorted to living with T.J’s grandmother. And if life doesn’t suck enough, he’s the victim of bullies: the put-your-head-in-the-urinal kind of bullies. This lost boy needs a savior: even a pyromaniac-loving angel of death from below.
One day, out of a state of frustration from his latest attack from the resident school bully, T.J tosses a rock through the window of a house at an abandoned construction development—and meets the house’s resident squatter: a tattooed, heavy-metal loving malcontent that goes by the singular: Hesher.
And with that: Hesher finds a new place to squat. He hooks up T.J’s family with cable porn channels with the snip of a wire cutter. He takes T.J’s bully to task. He becomes more of a grandson to T.J’s grandmother than T.J. He steals the heart (among other things) of the mousey, timid grocery checkout girl (an amazing against type Natalie Portman) of T.J’s dreams. He’s a dick and a guru at the same time. He’s Hesher.
Hesher is the feature film writing and director debut Spencer Susser, a noted music video producer for Jennifer Lopez, Lana Del Ray, Gwen Stefani, and The Vines. Sadly, Susser’s opening directing salvo may be his last feature film (he hasn’t made another film since): the worldwide gross of Hesher was less than $500,000 against a budget of $7 million.
And that’s a damn shame. Film goers constantly complain about the endless stream of sequels, reboots, and comic book franchises; that we want something fresh and original. Then, when that very film comes along, we ignore it—both professional industry critics and filmgoers alike.
If Hesher had become an indie-critical darling—like Damien Chazelle’s (First Man, La La Land) bullied jazz drummer-odyssey, Whiplash—Joseph Gordon-Levitt would have walked away with Golden Globe and Oscar nods. Yes, Levitt is that good in Hesher: he’s as mesmerizing as Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight.
But alas, this is a movie connected to Metallica, not Batman, and the mainstream isn’t having any of that Satan loving, thrash metal non-sense in the 90210 zip code.
So raise that middle finger and watch Hesher. Hesher is raw, it’s real and it’s available for free on TubiTV and Vudu. If you’d rather not watch the whole film, then check out the “funeral speech” that sums up Hesher’s philosophy. Hesher’s wiser than any PhD.
And what’s this, pray tell? Another Metallica movie?
Nope. Don’t be duped: This is a bogus, 1987 repack of Alfonso Brescia’s 1979 Star Wars rip-off, Star Odyssey.
About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.
I enjoyed your review, and the other reviews on the site. I don’t have much knowledge of, or background with, these kinds of great, cheesy “B” type movies. Fun to read your takes on them!
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Patrick, thank you so much for your kindness and time in posting this comment. I am glad to have turned somone onto Hesher. I love this movie!
Yeah, Sam, B&S Movies’ proprietor, and myself are two old souls that have watched way too many movies and read way too many film-pedias. It feels good to be able to use all of that useless film intel, and honor our forgotten film idols, and spead the love of film from the UHF-TV ’70s and VHS ’80s in the new online streaming frontier.
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