American Made (***1/2) Liman and Cruise in Scorsese mode

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American Made – 2017

Director Doug Liman
Screenplay Gary Spinelli
Starring Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Jayma Mays, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones, Alejandro Edda, Mauicio Mejia, Connor Trinneer, Jed Rees

Watching Tom Cruise move through the quick cuts of Doug Liman’s story about Barry Seals secret life of transporting weapons, taking pictures for the Feds and drugs for the cartels is entertaining as hell. It doesn’t matter that it amounts to what the director calls “a fun lie based on a true story.” The general principles behind the story are true, for the most part. Our government working against its own best interests is not a new story, nor is it all that surprising. If you want to see a lighter take on a dark period that wreaked havoc on our society even to this day, you could do worse.

Liman isn’t breaking new ground here. He’s essentially making a Scorsese based on real life drama. We get to see an almost comical series of interested parties making use out of a guy who is extremely good at getting airplanes in and out of remote locations. Whether you find this amusing will depend somewhat upon your experience with the result of all of the laws broken and drugs that were brought into this country. This man’s actions affected an astonishing amount of this country’s citizenry.

My perspective is informed by my pessimistic nature and the thought if it wasn’t happening one way, it would have happened some other way.

Liman handles the material expertly. In fact, this is significantly better than two of
Scorsese’s more popular versions of this type of story, Casino and Wolf of Wall Street. Some of the scenes are absurd and their truth can rightly be questioned. Riding away from a crash landing in a neighborhood while covered with cocaine is first on my mind in this category. The acting is solid, however, and the script doesn’t perform any miracles, but doesn’t try to get all that fancy, either. The affect overall is a good movie.

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Cruise navigates the content quite easily. His charm is reserved to some flashes of that grin here and there. His main job is to just be amazed that not only he hasn’t been caught, but the another group wants to throw money at him. He might have done more with this if he’d had any actor or character to challenge him more than Gleeson, Wright  or even one of the cartel kingpins.

Essentially, if you love Goodfellas, you’ll like this one. If it’s not your cup of tea, skip it.

(***1/2 out of *****)

 

 

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