Cruisin at 10,000 feet
American Made (2017): 8 out of 10: Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman take a page out of Martin Scorsese’s book with a broad biographical take on prolific 80s drugs and guns smuggler, Barry Seal.
The Good: Like Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Casino or Wolf of Wall Street, American Made takes an overall breezy just the highlights flashback approach to a tale of a never do well who hits well above his weight class. Tom Cruise is excellent in the lead role and while the rest of the cast is forgettable (There is no Joe Pesci here), they do a fine job. The movie is also beautifully shot and the period details of the late seventies early eighties seem spot on.
It is also nice to see a major motion picture that doesn’t look like a video game or tries to pass off various parts of Canada as the United States and Colombia.
The Bad: Fans of historical accuracy are in for a rough ride. For starters, the main character Barry Seal’s nickname was El Gordo, and he weighed over three hundred pounds. Not an exact match for Mr. Cruise. (Similar to Tom Cruise’s take on Jack Reacher in the film of the same name. A character who resembled Dwayne Johnson in height and muscular build.)
American Made makes many of the actual events shown out of the whole cloth. The movie also has an annoying habit of name dropping (Like a protagonist in an Assassin’s Creed video game everyone Barry meets or interacts with becomes or is famous.) They even manage to get five presidents in a movie that takes place over only seven years (Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and W all cameo in the movie through TV shots, phone calls and W in person.)
Also, speaking of El Gordo, good lord has Benito Martinez (David Aceveda from The Shield) put on some weight.
In Conclusion: I love this style of movie that Scorsese perfected years ago (A shout out to Brian De Palma’s Scarface as well.) Director Liman never quite reaches those heights. The lack of memorable secondary characters doesn’t help, but it is the fact that our main character gets all this money but seems to have no idea what to do with it outside of burying it in the yard and putting it in the bank that puts a damper on the ride. Liman never really shows any gomorrahian excess that can make these films a guilty pleasure.
American Made is a very solid, handsome outing. Cruise continues to show himself as rising above his material and who always seems to give a 110%. He really is getting only better with age.