American Dreamer, co-written and directed by Daniel Forte, is a new thriller featuring Jim Gaffigan’s latest effort as a dramatic actor. Thanks to Gaffigan’s committed performance, this film is able to overcome a problematic script to be a passable watch.
The story follows a divorced rideshare driver as he decides to kidnap the infant child of the drug dealer who he chauffeurs in an attempt to make some quick cash. Ultimately, this story is rather overstuffed, and therein lies a majority of the movie’s issues. Although the story about the protagonist’s divorce serves as the emotional crux of the film, the kidnapping story is more prevalent and exciting.
Sadly, the movie is unable to find a satisfying balance between these two storylines, and as a result, the film feels extremely uneven. The first thirty minutes of the movie are extremely slow, as the plot is mostly stagnant for the beginning of the film. However, even once the plot kicks in, the movie feels like it is in desperate need of revitalization.
Much of the story’s suspense comes in the form of shock value. There are one or two sequences in the film that are pretty shocking, and these are the most effective moments. However, since this is all that the movie really has to offer, the film is unable to sustain this tension. There needed to be more in order to maintain the audience’s interest for the entirety of the runtime.
The character development in the movie is solid, as the first thirty minutes of the film give the audience enough to connect with the character, but there is some untapped potential in the nuances of the dynamic between the protagonist and his family. The movie makes it clear that the protagonist is committing these crimes out of desperation and love for his son, but more could have been done with this emotional element.
That said, Gaffigan does a wonderful job in his leading performance. This year has served as Gaffigan’s big break into dramatic acting. Although he has had a few bit parts in the past, he has shown with his 2019 roles that he is able to lead a non-comedic film with ease. His performance is packed with emotion and it feels like he becomes completely absorbed in the role.
On a technical level, the movie could have used some more work. Since a majority of the film takes place in a car, the camera could have been used more effectively to build suspense in that claustrophobic environment. Additionally, most of the movie feels dark and grey, which is not particularly effective in building a tone for the film.
While there are some interesting things going on in American Dreamer, Jim Gaffigan is very much the only thing that is keeping this movie afloat. Not as thrilling or affecting as it hopes to be, this film feels like a case of wasted potential.
American Dreamer is now in theaters and hits VOD on September 20.