Dustin Hoffman plays a petty criminal dubbed the "angel of flight 204" after rescuing several people. Then someone else takes credits for his noble deeds...
Petty hustler Bernie La Plante (Hoffman) is en route to his estranged son's house when an airliner crashes right in his car's path. More by accident than design he bumps open the door and risks his scrawny little neck to rescue several passengers trapped on board. Mistakenly thinking he's failed to save the father of a young boy passenger, however, he melts into the crowd before the media bandwagon descends.
Among those he saves is TV reporter Gale Gayley (Davis) who whips up a publicity campaign to find her saviour, the unknown hero, dubbed the "Angel Of Flight 104". The next day La Plante tells his tale and donates the only object that could validate his story to fellow lowlife John Bubber (Garcia), ignorant of the effect of his actions until he's busted for selling stolen credit cards at the exact moment a reward of one million dollars is offered to the person who can prove he's the hero - namely, John Bubber.
A resounding flop in the US under its original title Hero, for the first 40 minutes this bears all the hallmarks of a big-budget, star-studded turkey, complete with a cast of dislikable characters. Hoffman's La Plante is a sleazoid in the Ratso Rizzo mould with a dash of Rain Man's Raymond thrown in, a small-time hustler not above pilfering from his brief's purse in court; Garcia's Bubber is a lowlife charlatan riding in on the back of Bernie's heroics; and Davis' hard-nosed hack would seem to be a ruthless newshound out for the ultimate story.
Then, miraculously, it all clicks into place: Garcia may be a fraud but he's a nice guy with it, more suited to his new-found position than Hoffman's scrounging scuzzball would have been. He helps the homeless and visits sick children in hospital. America loves him - they even produce Bubber dolls. But La Plante is still a man unjustly deprived of his "heroic" status and his million dollars, and you can't help but sympathise.
There's a Cinderella element here, of course - the hero leaves behind one leather shoe at the scene which is used to identify him - but the little guy triumphing against the odds is more reminiscent of the screwball comedies of Frank Capra or Preston Sturges.
First and foremost a highly enjoyable crowd-pleaser, despite some plodding direction and laboured point-making about TV news and the nature of fame and heroism, this has Garcia and Davis as their usual beguiling selves and an ending guaranteed to raise a smile.