American Boy follows filmmaker Martin Scorsese as he solicits a series of stories from actor/producer Steven Prince, with the 55-minute movie consisting of Prince’s various tales and separated by titles like Hot Bagels and Jack the Cop. It’s ultimately clear that American Boy, despite its truncated running time, is never quite able to justify its very existence, as Prince, though personable, doesn’t have the presence or charisma necessary to consistently hold the viewer’s interest – although, by that same token, it’s certainly difficult to deny the effectiveness of some of his anecdotes (including one that obviously inspired a key sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction). The erratic atmosphere is compounded by Scorsese’s emphasis on elements of a decidedly head-scratching nature, with the most obvious example of this a long and fairly pointless opening stretch detailing an impromptu wrestling match between Prince and a friend. And although the picture has been sprinkled with some entertaining moments, American Boy is ultimately unable to overcome the biggest obstacle to its ongoing success: Prince himself (ie he’s not quite the fascinating figure Scorsese clearly believes him to be).
** out of ****