Based-on-a-true-story this lively drama almost feels like a comedy for the first three-quarters or so as Barry Seal invites you into his “Can you believe I’m getting away with this?” world. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Tom Cruise was nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy at the Golden Globes.
What Works: The supporting cast mostly doesn’t make much of an impression, so this is really and truly a one-man show, but luckily, Cruise is more than up for the challenge. He seems invigorated to be playing an actual character again, and the rogueish charm looks good on him. “The Mummy” was supposed to be Cruise’s return to anti-hero rascal mode (he hasn’t played an anti-hero or villain since 2007/2008 with “Lions for Lambs,” “Tropic Thunder,” and “Valkyrie”), but that didn’t work out too well. Here, he makes Barry effortlessly appealing and hard to root against, even as he’s trafficking massive amounts of drugs into America, and providing high-impact weapons to the cartels. This is also a much more realistic and fact-based account of Seal’s story than his brief part in “The Infiltrator” (in which Cranston’s undercover accountant was magically airbrushed into Seal’s assassination) or “Narcos.”
What Doesn’t: The movie is more connect-the-dots good than knock-your-socks off great, a solid “B+” movie that doesn’t really even attempt greatness. Also, we’re now reaching “Escobar-overload” as Netflix has multiple series chronicling him, and there have been more than a few recent films detailing everyone close to him. I can’t wait for “Feeding Pablo: The Incredible True Story of his Personal Chef” or stories on his zookeeper or plumber.
What I Would Have Done Differently: How sad is it that Tom’s best film in years is his worst performing one box office wise? That won’t be the right message to send to an actor who’s become increasingly afraid of taking risks.