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American Son (DVD Review)

9 Jul, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Prebook 7/14/09; Street 8/25/09
$29.99 DVD
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive language, some sexual content and drug use.
Stars Nick Cannon, Melonie Diaz, Matt O’Leary, Tom Sizemore, April Grace, Jay Hernandez, Chi McBride.

Not long into American Son, it is clear that U.S. Marine Pvt. Mike Holland (Nick Cannon, aka Mr. Mariah Carey) has outgrown the social and cultural limitations of his hometown Bakersfield, Calif.

On a 96-hour Thanksgiving leave before being shipped to Iraq, Holland befriends home girl Cristina (well-cast Melonie Diaz) on the bus from Camp Pendleton. More than smitten, Holland eyes the pretty Mexican-American college student as a long-term relationship prospect — heady stuff considering the requisite racial and cultural undertones (Holland is black), and the fact his friends pretty much live to party, get wasted and get laid, in no particular order.

Indeed, volatile best friend and drug dealer Jake (Matt O’Leary) becomes incensed Mike enlisted without his knowledge (“We should have joined up together,” he snaps), perhaps begrudging his friend’s ambition to better himself.

Throughout it all, Holland is a voice of calm and reason, betraying his emotions only when Cristina introduces him to Junior (Jay Hernandez), a neighbor and fellow Marine who lost part of his leg and sense of self-worth in Iraq (“I went to Iraq and all I got was crippled,” reads his T-shirt).

Despite reassurances to his divorced parents and Cristina that he’s simply going to be deployed abroad and out of harm’s way, Holland knows only too well that armed conflict awaits him on the streets of Fallujah.

To its credit, American Son takes no political side in the Iraq war. Backed by a stellar supporting cast, including Chi McBride (“Pushing Daisies”) as Holland’s estranged father and suitable Tom Sizemore as a step-dad and ex-Marine whose own life appears on the edge, American Son explores the underlying strength of the human spirit when exposed to life’s complexities.

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