AMERICAN MADE: I think Tom Cruise (See CLOSING CREDITS.) gets underrated as an actor because his movie star persona gets significant linkage with his big budget roles. But it’s his charismatic presence that makes him a perfect fit to play an amoral, thrill seeking commercial pilot whose surveillance flights for the CIA lead him to moonlight as a primary drug smuggler for the Medellin cartel. Gary Spinnelli’s cleverly subversive screenplay is at once a dark comedy as well as a sly commentary on the moral quagmire of the Reagan era where the war on drugs was allowed to continue owing to its profitability for both sides. It’s most definitely a twisted jab at the American Dream and the compromises necessary to attain it and it makes its points without beating the audience over the head with them. The story itself, based on fact, is as familiar as SCARFACE (1983) or AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007) where criminal enterprises rise to dizzying, wealthy heights only to be brought to an “early retirement” by the folly of their own audacious greed. Occasionally, the narrative and Doug Liman’s (EDGE OF TOMORROW) direction is repetitively scattershot to the point that I wondered at times just where this movie was going. Equally murky is the relationship with Cruise and his oft pregnant wife (Sarah Wright) who appear content to put their children in harm’s way because apparently “they like all the stuff”. Even if it is a sort of “crime doesn’t pay” cautionary tale for the post-Watergate years, the film does have a consistent energy buoyed by Cruise’s performance with subtle support from Domhnall Gleeson (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS) as a CIA operative perfectly willing to exploit his recruit’s talent to advance his career. His is a character that fits right in to a movie where everyone’s corruption is measured in degrees. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other good films with actor/movie star Tom Cruise – RISKY BUSINESS (1983), THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986), RAIN MAN (1988), BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (1989)*, A FEW GOOD MEN (1992), THE FIRM (1993), JERRY MAGUIRE (1996)*, MAGNOLIA (1999)**, THE LAST SAMURAI (2003), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006), TROPIC THUNDER (2008), KNIGHT AND DAY (2010), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (2011), EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (2015)

*Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor

** Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor