An excerpt from my script review for American Made which will be available 10/02/17:

3.) Quality of Characters

Having clever characters is good.

The one thing they can’t be is too clever, however.

In contrast to my argument about American Assassin (geez, patriotic times at the box office), American Made did things right, in that the main character was perceptive, but not without flaws.

Page 8:

SCHAFER
What I been asking myself. These
stogies are worth maybe two, three
grand on the black market.
Peanuts.

BARRY
And that’s what the CIA’s
interested in these days? Peanuts?

SCHAFER
What makes you think I’m CIA?

BARRY
FBI only cares about Cubans
enterin’, not leaving the country.
That watch on your wrist is worth a
mortgage payment, so that rules out
DEA. And Army men don’t wear
linen.

Schafer smiles appreciatively. Barry’s got him pegged. Not
the last time that’ll happen.

Barry knows right from the get go who Shafer’s with, and what he wants. Not only does it get to the point, it does so in a way where we admire Barry.

Similarly from page 25:

Barry is thrown at first. Then begins to laugh as he
realizes what’s happened–

BARRY
You put those farmers on to me in
the first place, didn’t you?
(wry smile)
Goddamn you’re good. Why’s the CIA
wanna get into bed with those boys?

SCHAFER
Their operation has the potential
to fund other operations.

BARRY
That almost sounds like you’re not
asking me to commit felonies on a
regular basis.

SCHAFER
It’s not a felony if you’re doing
it for the good guys.

BARRY
Words for the next CIA recruitin’
poster.

And why this works?

First, Barry is still in control of his world at this point. Things haven’t gotten out of hand, nor is he in over his head yet.

We’re in a “honeymoon” stage in that we’re enjoying Barry’s company onscreen.

But later he does get in over his head, which leads to him making mistakes, and a character in this situation is both believable and great for drama.

Compare this to my review American Assassin, where Mitch and Hurley are so damn perfect that it’s a wonder there’s any terrorists left in the world because they can predict and defeat everything thrown at them.

Audiences have trouble identifying with perfect.

Going back to Barry though, he’s also a “nice guy”.

Two examples…

First, I think he genuinely liked Downing, and wanted to be friends despite the fact that they were on opposite sides of local law.

Second, he didn’t trust his brother-in-law, but he couldn’t kill him either. He gave him money to run away, it’s just too bad the CIA took care of that loose end for him.

Towards the end Barry takes bigger and bigger risks, relying on his government overlords to get him out of trouble for the greater good.

This is an excellent setup for the plot, because sooner or later Barry’s actions will outweigh his usefulness.

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