American Made review — Another ride with the cocaine cowboys

Directed by Doug Limon | Written by Gary Spinelli | 115 min

A somewhat trashy but highly entertaining drug runner movie, one that can stand comfortably amongst the best of this slowly burgeoning genre, including Miami ViceBlow, Escobar: Paradise Lost, and Loving Pablo. 

Tom Cruise has more than his usual amount of fun playing a not-so-swift TWA pilot, Barry Seal, who’s invited by the CIA, here in the person of the incredibly busy Domhnall Gleeson, to fly missions into Central America to take photographs. It isn’t long before Barry is also recruited by the Medellin Cartel to ship drugs to the US. Later, Barry gets into gunrunning, all to support his Louisiana-based wife (Sarah Wright) and family, and to make a fortune.

If this is starting to sound familiar, it’s because it’s based on a true story of how the United States dove head first in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and who were the few to make money from this insane covert foreign policy. Mountains of cocaine and all that money made normal human beings think they could get away with anything. It’s a popular story told often, given the  many times the role of Pablo Escobar has been cast  in Hollywood.

Limon is a capable hand for action filmmaking, with the first Bourne movie and Cruise’s Edge Of Tomorrow among his body of work. This effort requires a bit more swing to it—the ’70s grit, ’80s gloss, and a lightness of touch, which he manages well. Momentum dips occasionally through the running time, and we never really feel a whole lot for Barry’s amoral opportunism, but this isn’t really a suspense thriller. It’s more a the story of a goofy adventurer who was in the right place at the right time, until he very much wasn’t. It’s a hoot to see how just how far Barry can take it.

The answer: To the limit… and always one more time.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.