If you thought off-the-books, quasi-legal internecine government shenanigans were a practice brought to the White House by a tangerine reality TV buffoon, wait until you get a load of what was going on the last time a former celebrity became commander in chief.
Telling the mostly true story of Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who became a smuggler for the CIA, the Medellin Cartel and the White House through the late seventies and early eighties, Doug Liman’s breezy and brazen biopic is as coked out as the cargo hold of Barry’s plane. Fizzing with a manic, restless energy, the film barrels along thanks to an energetic performance from Cruise, who looks like he’s having fun for the first time in years. While’s he’s not always entirely convincing as the sleazy, selfish and morally unrestrained pilot/ smuggler/ gun runner, he seems genuinely invested in the role, bringing something other than a remix of ‘Ethan Hunt’ to the screen. The film likewise benefits from the absence of Cruise’s recent hallmark of ego-boosting, age-defying stunt work in favour of a more down to earth, grubbier kind of action comedy.
Unfortunately, the film is so agog at the sheer fantastical bravado of its subject that it doesn’t really have time to get under the skin of its subject in any great details and there’s precious little character development for any of the supporting cast who drift in and out of Barry’s life without real context, making the story feel a little bit lightweight despite its heavy subject matter. Tonally it’s got a lot in common with “The Wolf Of Wall Street”, if that film were heavily edited down to fit an arbitrary broadcast slot and while both offer the illicit buzz of an anti-hero gaming the system to a nearly impossible to believe degree, the high from “American Made” doesn’t last nearly as long.