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Review: Jim Gaffigan breaks out in ‘American Dreamer’; and more

‘American Dreamer’

Because stand-up comedians like Jim Gaffigan spend so much time getting laughs from their own flaws, they often have an affinity for tragic roles. Gaffigan brings plenty of gravitas to “American Dreamer,” a low-key neo-noir that starts out as a character sketch about a broken man, and then takes an even darker turn.

Gaffigan plays Cam, a ride-share driver whose explosive temper cost him a high-paying job and his marriage. In desperate need of cash, he kidnaps the young son of a regular client: a dangerous drug lord named Mazz (Robbie Jones). Then Cam finds himself driving Mazz around the city, as the gangster tries to track down the kidnapper instead of paying the ransom.

The first half of “American Dreamer” is overwrought, as writer-director Derrick Borte and co-writer Daniel Forte pile misery on their protagonist. Once the plot kicks in, the movie develops a queasy intensity, with Cam making one head-slapping blunder after another while trying to keep Mazz from learning the truth.

Throughout, Gaffigan is great, eschewing sentimentality as he taps into his frustration and rage — with no jokes in sight.

Rated: R, for disturbing material, violence, some strong sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Starts Sept. 20, Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; also on VOD



Richard Kind, ‘Auggie’

In the lightly fantastical indie drama “Auggie,” Richard Kind plays a newly retired architect who’s having trouble adjusting to his new life, with nothing to do and a wife (played by Susan Blackwell) too busy at her own job to listen to his problems. He spends his days making the most of his retirement gift: a pair of glasses that let him talk with a charming, pretty “augmented reality” companion (played by

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