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.'
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.
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.
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.
... a promising concept gradually morphs into a predictable indie flick.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hesher is a muddle of inchoate feelings that never really grasps the cliches to which it raises its middle finger.
Director Spencer Susser doesn't try to make Hesher anything other than a sociopath - a walking, profanity-spewing id - and to his credit, neither does Gordon-Levitt.
The performances, especially by Wilson and Laurie as the grandmother, keep Susser's earnest effort afloat. Consider it a promise of things to come.
What does he want? Where does he come from? Director Spencer Susser appears too intoxicated by the title character to risk peering beyond the enigmatic surface for fear of losing some of his mystery, as mystery is all Hesher has.