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Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

American Made


American Made -- a Review

[Forenote (feel free to ignore):  A bare quorum of our group made it to American Made: Guy S. Malone, Researcher, who is required to attend all films he recommends; Don Swedanya, so traumatized by our recent string of dramatic fare that his acid reflux registers on a seismograph; and Serfing Dude, who has been tenaciously loyal in attending our offerings (perhaps it is his hope that mind-altering herbal remedies might accompany our journeys.]

The good news is that everyone in our group enjoyed and can recommend American Made.  Whatever anyone may think of Tom Cruise personally, the guy makes exciting films, and he gives it all he has in the process.  In his newest film, American Made, the star is still charismatic, and while he is no Brando, he does get into his inch-deep characters.  Most of the time, that means some variation of the All-American boy, but his most interesting films are when he plays against that type.  A personal favorite is Collateral, where his silver-haired sociopathic hit-man Vincent nearly wins over the cab driver (Jamie Foxx) he draws into hauling him from kill to kill.  In Edge of Tomorrow, his first collaboration with director Doug Liman, Cruise leaves the badassery to Emily Blunt as he plays a reluctant (very reluctant) hero.

American Made gives Cruise another shade, a biographical treatment of anti-hero Barry Seal, a TWA pilot who turns in his commercial wings for a private gig after amiable CIA agent Monty "Schafer" (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers his aptitude for both risk-taking and smuggling while flashing an innocent 68-tooth grin.  Monty offers Barry a hot spy plane and sends him off to take aerial photography of the burgeoning Communist guerrilla operations in Central America. Of course, Barry is sworn to secrecy, and his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright), a former fast-food worker, worries at first about the loss of benefits and their plan for a family.  But Barry is so talented that the ever-inventive Monty expands his job description to include gun-smuggling with Barry's side of drug-running.  The money rolls in, Barry's operation builds--as does the danger--and before we know it, Barry is up to his neck in helping build what was to become the Medellin drug cartel and the Iran-Contra affair that almost brought down the Reagan Administration.

Barry Seal's story has been told before, most notably in the 1991 Dennis Hopper TV movie drama Doublecrossed, but despite the political weight and dire consequences inherent, American Made goes for a lighter touch.  While Gary Spinelli's screenplay gets a bit cute and convoluted at times, action film artist Doug Liman (Bourne trilogy, Edge of Tomorrow) directs it with high pace and panache, giving nods to the light-hearted larceny of American Hustle (down to the quote, "Some of this actually happened") and the amusing explanatory tangents of The Big Short.  Although American Made doesn't quite reach the level of those two films, it definitely belongs in their company as a satire of modern American Machiavellian political fiascos.

Domhnall Gleeson nearly steals the show as Monty, the amiable CIA agent who invents and operationalizes Wile E. Coyote schemes.  Also notable are Sarah Wright, whose Lucy gives willful ignorance a seductive touch; Caleb Landry Jones as JB, Lucy's vindictive loser of a brother, who is sure to rattle Barry's house of cards; and Jessie Plemons as Sheriff Downing, who balks at investigating the many shady dealings because of the riches being showered in his small town.  American Made makes an entertaining appetizer leading into the awards season buffet.
8.0 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
5.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale

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