The Hero

Who else but Sam Elliott, the cinema’s last surviving cowboy, could have pulled off this soapy tale about an elderly western star silently wrestling with a grim cancer diagnosis? The movie opens with his character endlessly intoning a tagline for barbecue sauce as he scrapes by doing voice-over work, and Elliott, who’s spent much of his own career trapped under a ten-gallon hat, makes the scene a study in actorly resignation and dignity. Screenwriters Brett Haley and Marc Basch resort to cliché (the actor’s damaged relationship with his grown daughter, played by Krysten Ritter) and contrivance (for the 100th time in recent memory, the story turns on the eruption of a viral video), but Elliott invests his character with such authority that the movie resounds like a pair of bootheels. Haley directed; with Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman, and Katharine Ross.