American Made came out last August to little fanfare and very few people saw it, at least when compared to other Tom Cruise movies. This is a shame because I love this movie. Honestly, I could watch American Made a hundred times. If there were a channel that only played American Made, I could set it as my “in the background as I work or do whatever” channel and be set. You, too, should watch American Made while it’s on its current never-ending HBO loop.
There are a few reasons not many people saw this movie. But the main one seems to be that everyone just kind of gave up on it because of timing. Universal had just bet huge on Tom Cruise’s other movie last summer, The Mummy – announcing the entire ill-fated “Dark Universe” around its release – and it was all met with a resounding thud. (Mission: Impossible – Fallout is set to be huge this weekend, so Cruise can obviously still open a movie – well, at least if “Impossible” is in the title.) In the middle of the press tour, even Tom Cruise just kind of gave up and started to talk about Top Gun 2 instead. (Yeah, it’s a bad sign when the star of your new multi-film franchise starts promoting a movie from another studio that hadn’t started filming yet.)
So a little more than two months later, here comes American Made and, from the outside looking in, it just seemed like Universal wasn’t in the mood to spend more money on another huge Tom Cruise press tour – so the movie was inhumanly released into the wild to see how it would fend on its own. And it didn’t fend very well, grossing just $134 million worldwide. Domestically, it’s one of the worst performing Tom Cruise movies of his career. Of recent films, only Rock of Ages did worse, and Cruise isn’t the main character in that film. On the surface, American Made kind of gets lumped in with The Mummy as the “summer of bad Tom Cruise movies.”
But here’s the thing: American Made is f-ing fantastic.
After Edge of Tomorrow, it shouldn’t be too surprising Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman make good movies together. And it’s a travesty that American Made is mentioned in the same sentence as dreck like The Mummy. Cruise plays Barry Seal in this true story of a hotshot former commercial airline pilot who finds himself working for both the CIA and Pablo Escobar. People complain that this latter-day version of Tom Cruise doesn’t act anymore like he used to in movies like Magnolia. That he’s just chasing stunts like he does in the recent Mission: Impossible movies. (To be fair, those stunts are a lot of fun.) Well, here’s a movie in which Cruise is acting his heart out and no one saw it.
Now, after saying all that, here’s my bold prediction: Someday American Made will be remembered as one of Tom Cruise’s best movies and also as one of the most popular movies from 2017.