*NEW* AMERICAN MADE REVIEW *NEW*

Poorly made? Or silly fun?

A pilot (Tom Cruise) lands work for the CIA and the cartel as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.

Imagine if Pablo Escobar hired Top Gun’s Maverick to export his drugs and you’re pretty much there.

Cruise does just enough to make this mad biopic entertaining.

I know his latest efforts have been mixed (to say the least) BUT it was true what the movie said, “He’s the gringo that always delivers”.

The opening quickly set up the monotonous daily routine of the unfulfilled Barry Seal (Cruise). Frustration reaching breaking point as the airline pilot playfully switched off the auto pilot just to take control of something in his life.

Thankfully it wasn’t long before the mysterious ‘Monty’ (Domnhall Gleeson) made his introduction.

Domnhall Gleeson has got to be one of the best supporting actors going at the moment. He almost stole the limelight from Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. BUT I digress . . .

He played ‘Monty’ brilliantly. Slick and cocky. Playing up to Seal’s desires and offering him the job of a lifetime. A new plane. A new life. BUT, of course, at a price. Always at a price.

The only problem was that once Cruise was set on his way, Gleeson was pushed into the background. A missed opportunity as ‘Monty’ was a lot shadier than we were led to believe.

Cruise’s Dukes of Hazzard story telling was a little too silly for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, it was very watchable and had an easygoing comical feel to the piece. Very much like Charlie Wilson’s War. BUT I like my crime biopics a little more gritty and hard hitting.

If these events (Accepting “Hollywood”‘s retelling) actually happened, I’d be smirking like the protagonist!

The pace was patchy and dipped in and out of places BUT I wasn’t bored. If anything, I was engrossed into seeing how far this madness went as Seal crossed enemy lines to initially to do some air reconnaissance.

Accepting all the risks with no assistance or recognition if captured or killed. Ridiculous.

The thrill-seeking pilot inevitably becoming the CIA’s golden goose for information. The gringo that always delivers. However, despite providing Grade A intel, it wasn’t long before Seal’s financial woes piled up. The CIA scrimping on providing an adequate salary. Shocking.

BUT ‘Monty’ has a solution as Seal’s aerial skills are required for a bigger and more dangerous mission. Smuggling drugs for the Colombian cartel!

This is the second Escobar influenced biopic I’ve seen in the last year (The Infiltrator). Now, I know he was only a passing figure in Seal’s mishaps BUT why did they make the big guy so weak and lifeless?

Clearly the film is riding on the Narcos hype; so why didn’t they watch the show and take some pointers?

There were still tense moments as Seal attempted to take off a mock jungle runway with a top heavy plane full to the brim with cocaine. The PoV shots had me wincing as the plane wrestled with the tree tops.

BUT the characters could have been fleshed out a lot more.

The stunning Sarah Wright (21 & Over) didn’t do too bad a job as Barry’s long suffering wife. BUT her character was still tragically weak. Even if she wasn’t just accepting Barry’s answers and decisions as their family were reallocated across the country.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the airhead brother in law JB well. A walking disaster if ever there was one. Alarm bells ringing early on that the dimwit will be a problem for Barry’s operation.

I was expecting Fargo’s Jesse Plemons to do more as Sheriff Downing. He was completely irrelevant as the events unfolded. I’m sure that was supposed to be a lazy statement on Seal’s ever-growing power BUT that could have been done without the Chief Wiggum-esque antics.

Lucy: “Honey, there’s money flying around in the back yard”

Barry: “I’ll rake it up in the morning”

More money than sense as Seal’s operation continued to expand. His smuggling became so lucrative that the hay in the stables was embedded with cash!

The silly humour and quips didn’t really work as well as they should have. It breezed over a lot of facts and picked the “sexier” bits of the story.

I actually got a little bored as Seal lapped up the high life. That was until his dealings took a murkier turn. Cutting through all sorts of crazy political red tape as he used the Iran-Contra affair to his gain.

Instead of supplying guns to the Contras, Seal sold them onto the Colombians while they smuggled Escobar’s drugs shipments back to Miami! I know, crazy!

Seal wasn’t just portrayed as as a money grabbing adrenaline junkie. Especially as the noose inevitably grew tighter around his neck as pressure continued to mount from Escobar and the CIA.

The final act was surprisingly dark and tense as Seal was inadvertently “made”. The error in itself was a joke.

The dark ending felt completely disjointed from the rest of the film as Seal went into hiding, fearing the wrath of the Colombians.

I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. BUT just like Gold and The Infiltrator, the producers have had to rely on a big leading performance to drudge through a patchy and mediocre affair.

Although it lacked depth, American Made still highlighted the hypocrisy of the CIA’s antics during the 80s and Cruise still delivered a watchable popcorn movie. Seriously, the Missouri plane chase was hilarious and action packed.

BUT the tone, mismatched humour and weak characters spoiled something that could have been so much more.

Narcos, it ain’t. A fun time filler worth a gander.

3/5

Advertisements

*NEW* THE INFILTRATOR REVIEW *NEW*

maxresdefault

Terrible title for a terrible movie. Not even Heisenberg could save this cold and disjointed crime thriller. Watch Narcos instead.

A U.S. Customs official (Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad) uncovers a money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

A meandering and uninteresting crime biopic. Shame. Let’s start with the positives (That will be about a paragraph).

The opening was engaging enough as we watched agent Robert Mazur in play (Even if it was Hal in a badly dyed wig and tash). I couldn’t believe the number of British actors popping up in small (and tragically meaningless) roles; Daniel Mays (Dad’s Army), Leanne Best (Line of Duty) and Joseph Gilgun (Misfits).

I was intrigued as Mazur had to fake a heart attack to cover up the fact that the bug he was wearing was actually frying his chest. You could feel for the chap as retirement reared its ugly head. Desperately seeking one operation, one bust that will truly make a dent on this relentless drug war.

It was interesting to see the strain that the scheme took on Mazur’s wife. Juliet Aubrey (The Constant Gardener) and Bryan Cranston had good chemistry. At first, Evelyn was understanding and supportive as Bob confides in her every detail BUT as he delves deeper into the underbelly and his cover became entwined with his personal life, things began to take their toll.

An uncomfortable anniversary dinner took a turn for the worse as the couple bump into one of Mazur’s targets. A moment involving a birthday cake was probably one of the best scenes in the film. Cranston was able to show why he won all those Emmys and highlight the pressure of keeping two personas.

It was a little disappointing that the momentum couldn’t be carried. The agonizing pace really didn’t help the piece. There were good portions of the film that dragged unnecessarily.

I’m not sure whether it was a case of writer Ellen Sue Brown sticking too close to the original novel based on Mazur’s life BUT it really wasn’t an interesting one. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to establish that Escobar was filtering his money through America and various places around the world. Once we witnessed Bob initiate a few shady deals and droll out some financial statistics, there wasn’t much else on offer.

John Leguizamo’s character was the most interesting one as the unstable Emir Abreu. BUT he still annoyed the hell out of me. The banter and one liners not quite jumping out at you and coming off flat and unfunny. BUT at least his character got things going. Introducing Mazur to the very underworld he wants to bring down.

There were a couple of tense moments as Abreu had to protect Mazur’s cover and deal with his own C.I. that was going out of his way to cause problems. BUT for all the potential trouble it suggested, nothing really came of it. Once Mazur got to the people he needed to, Abreu was pushed into the background and only brought back for the dismal finale.

And that was the main problem. It was all build up with no pay-off. It spent so long setting everything up and then ended abruptly with some mind-numbing disappointing statistics and bio footnotes in the closing credits. BUT by the end I couldn’t care less.

Diane Kruger did her best as Kathy Ertz; Mazur’s undercover wife. The writer teased a growing closeness between the pair BUT it was never really explored. Some much needed drama that could have added to the strain on Mazur’s real wife. However, it was reduced to an awkward encounter between the two ladies that just didn’t work.

Benjamin Bratt did his best with the role of Roberto Alcaino BUT he delivered more gusto and tenacity as El Macho in Despicable Me 2. The promising cast were wasted. Amy Ryan was reduced to playing a stocky CIA operative. Dull. Gilgun wasn’t in it enough as Dominic. He has come a long way from Emmerdale.

Joshua Reis’ cinematography was great to look at BUT there were only so many badly choreographed flashy neon stripper dances to cracking 80s tunes that could distract me from the monotonous clichéd and generic crime drivel that we’ve seen time and time again.

A movie of mere moments that never really took off. It was a little infuriating to see the Breaking Bad star take another foray into the drug business BUT at the same time if anyone could have made it work, you would have banked on Walter White.

You know you’re onto a loser when the main villain is reduced to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it walking cameo.

2/5