AMERICAN MADE (2017, Doug Liman)
A fun throwback to mid-90s Scorsese-lite ripoffs, where you expect a fast pace, big needle drops, freeze-frames, candid voiceover, and a dedication to glamorizing excess before ripping it all away in a moralizing third act. The problem is that GOODFELLAS is already as perfect as that genre’s gonna get, and everything from BLOW to NARCOS has just been varying degrees of entertaining superficiality.
The points Liman is making about capitalism’s rotten consequences, and moreover the gruesome ways the government used and exploited its operatives as mere cogs in the war machine, are valid and sobering — but not necessarily profound or unique. What makes this film watchable and mostly breezy fun is Tom Cruise, and by now that shouldn’t be surprising (both that it’s true and also that I’d be the person to point it out). Cruise remains one of this country’s greatest movie stars and finest performers, even if his recent choices haven’t lived up to an incredible run from the ’90s and early ’00s. The guy is undeniably magnetic, but he also finds creative line readings and comic facial expressions to expand the material and deepen its impact. If you respond to him as much as I do, this is clearly worth your time, but you’ll forget most of it within three days and start itching for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 6 next year… and hopefully a reunion with Spielberg or PTA or De Palma down the line for another jolt of real magic.