American Made showcases all of star Tom Cruise’s major strengths: the charisma, the winning smile and the lovable cockiness. While the story may be vaguely based on the experiences of government informant Barry Seal, this is a Tom Cruise movie through-and-through. Every character fades into the background as little more than poseable set dressing. It isn’t that the actors aren’t good in their roles, but that they haven’t been given parts other than as hangers-on.
Perhaps the biggest surprise from American Made is the product placement connected to Tom Cruise. He’s a star who knows the value of branding and, as such, rarely allows any recognizable products in a scene with him and certainly not in his own hands if possible. So, when he mentions Harley Davidson motorcycles by name, it’s a far bigger shock than any of the plot.
For more about American Made and product placement, take a look below:
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All film photos are courtesy of Universal Pictures.
This week I review JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK. It’s the sequel to the 2012 movie JACK REACHER also starring Tom Cruise in the title role. This time around he teams up with Major Susan Turner, played by Cobie Smulders (“Agents of SHIELD”, “Avengers”) as they both try to clear their names after they’re wrongfully accused of crimes they didn’t commit. It’s directed by Edward Zwick and also stars Danika Yarosh and Aldis Hodge.
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is a bit like the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise only more violent. It has a grittier feel to it, but otherwise it’s Tom Cruise doing what he does best. There’s a plot that’s vaguely understandable, but it’s almost beside the point. This is action and adventure. This is not suspense; I never once worried that Jack Reacher would get hurt, and I don’t think anyone in the movie did, either.
There are definitely some laughable plot points and things that don’t add up quite right, but it’s a go-along-for-the-thrill type of movie and they don’t have to. In fact, they probably even make slightly more sense than other movies in this genre.
There was an interesting theme of family in the movie that I hadn’t quite expected. There’s a subplot with Samantha, who may be Jack’s daughter, and she runs around with him and Susan during their adventures. The threesome make a ragtag family; it’s the quintessential allure of turning the loner into a family man.
Speaking of family man, there was something else that stood out to me as well and it may sound surprising but it was that this movie was very much a feminist piece. There were three main characters who were all women who played key roles. They didn’t use sex appeal to get them anywhere even though there was a scene with both Jack and Susan walking around shirtless for no particular reason. There was even a scene in which Samantha, the teenager, asks Susan if she’s a lesbian because she thinks all women in the military must be. Susan’s response that it’s just like real life where some are and some aren’t is pitch perfect. Susan and Samantha aren’t wallflowers who wait to be rescued by Jack and they’re not there simply to cater to his every whim. They’re smart, they fight, and they talk back to him. Out of all the movies that try to be feminist or try to make a point, here comes JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK quietly leveling the playing field.
This is also the perfect jumping off spot for a product placement discussion once again. If you’ve followed my reviews , you know that I used to work in the field and so let me share something about Tom Cruise. He knows what brand endorsements are worth and how much his face is worth connected to them, so he is one of the few actors who is powerful enough to make sure that he’s absolutely not connected to any brand he doesn’t want to be seen with. Pay attention in the movie to how hard the prop master and set decorators have to work in order to keep brands out of his hands and out of the shot with him. Just as brands never appear by accident, they also don’t disappear by accident. In this movie, you can watch for a couple scenes in particular that emphasize just how far Tom will go to make sure he’s not indirectly endorsing any brands.
For more about JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK, take a look below:
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