Powered by a character at once original and representational, Hesher courses with a unique verve missing in many independent productions, hovering somewhere between outright success and 'interesting failure.'
While it arrives decorated with cooler hair and a louder soundtrack, it still sticks to the "Unusual Outsider Teaches Middle-Class People What It Means to Really Live" template.
One Guy's Opinion
Since [Gordon-Levitt's] one of the most energetic and inventive young actors in the business, you can't take your eyes off him. Unfortunately, the quality of the material makes you wish you could.
Headbangs straight into your heart.
Gordon-Levitt ... gets to play the opposite of his usual put-upon nice-guy roles - and he runs with it, to the point of making Hesher downright scary a lot of the time. The rest of the cast keeps up with him, in their less flashy roles.
The strength of Hesher is its acting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is back to drawing on his natural power as an actor. He's skilled at creating absorbing human trainwrecks.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt must be especially glad for this film to see the light of day, because his performance is award-worthy, a complete inhabiting of as unique a personality as you'll encounter in film.
... a promising concept gradually morphs into a predictable indie flick.
Jeffrey M. Anderson
In his feature directorial debut, Spencer Susser establishes a deadpan, lost, grungy quality, the perfect place where a creature like Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) might have evolved.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
When the blessed credits finally roll, the first thing Susser shows us is Hesher's tattoo of a raised middle finger. Backatcha, dude.
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
...darkly funny and refreshingly blunt, giving a big middle finger to conventionality, and offering a rebel yell that's hard to ignore.
Like a knock-off of Chuck Palahniuk produced by people raised only on Sundance films, "Hesher" is a mess.
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul)
St. Paul Pioneer Press
[Susser] keeps us on our toes, and even when his choices seem flashier than they need to be, there's a reason for them.
Gordon-Levitt is a sly and inventive actor, and it can be genuinely fun to watch him having so much fun. But this character wears out his welcome fast.
Leonard Maltin's Picks
Some indie films seem to exist as exercises in strangeness, just to see how far they can go-and how long audiences will watch before screaming and running up the aisles. I stuck with Hesher till...
Jeffrey M. Anderson
Common Sense Media
Hesher himself [is] a mysterious, magnetic, repellent, and alluring figure... It's quite an astonishing performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
East Bay Express
Director/co-scenarist Spencer Susser has a definite feel for Hesher and T.J.'s little corner of the world.
San Francisco Chronicle
"Hesher" is about as awful as independent films get, a mix of ugliness and unearned sentiment, with a flat story, repellent and pathetic characters and dialogue that consists of lots of stammering and cursing.
Mark Reviews Movies
Beyond the fact that Hesher is a character to be despised instead of admired, Hesher is distanced from its characters and their situation in its apathy toward them.
Artifice is rodeo clowning for the script's flaws, with huge gaps of character development lost to a film that would rather stay on Hesher and his staring contests than tell a full-throated story.
A grim little drama that seems to exist in order to give the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman a chance to look extra-scruffy.
Hesher's such a mystery that he seems like a device (bong hits with Grandma, really?), and the same goes double for [Portman's character].
One by one the wheels start to come off, and before it's over you're working on your own metaphors for when the film fell apart instead of cleaving to those Susser is half-committing to the screen.
the film really picks up whenever Gordon-Levitt appears
Film Journal International
Fit for the scrap heap which provides one of the heavy-handed visual motifs here.