You'd be excused for feeling skeptical about Nick Cannon appearing in a serious drama about a Marine about to be shipped off to Iraq. And if knowing it's from Neil Abramson -- director of the Jerry Springer trainwreck Ringmaster -- turns you off altogether, well, no one will blame you.

But American Son is blessed with a powerful, honest screenplay by first-timer Eric Schmid, and Cannon -- who has always been charismatic, if nothing else -- displays a remarkable talent for drama. Abramson has done some documentary work since Ringmaster (a film that I assume he's embarrassed about, too), and that eye for real human drama helps make American Son a compelling picture.