Tom Cruise. Such an achiever. Such a hero! Remember that time some years back when he was even saving people in real life at traffic accidents and stuff?
It’s no wonder that Cruise has sustained one of the longest-running screen idol careers in movie history. At 55, he still fiercely commits himself to making every project as good as it can be (unless, perhaps, it’s called “The Mummy”), insists on doing his own, often insanely dangerous stunts (which cost him a broken ankle on the latest “Mission: Impossible” production), and radiates winning screen presence (off-screen too; he really is one of the nicest, most conscientious guys in Hollywood, the occasional couch-jumping jag notwithstanding),
Impressive as he’s been, though, as Mr. “Top Gun,” M:I’s Ethan Hunt and so many other best-of-the-best good guys, we think Cruise excels most at playing heels. The actor is inevitably more fascinating to watch when there’s ethical compromise behind that million dollar smile – or sociopathic absence in his rare but chilling scowls.
“American Made” gives us another one of Cruise’s patented rogues, the real good ol’ boy pilot Barry Seal who was a key, greedy player in all kinds of shady, Reagan-era dealings that led up to the Iran-Contra Scandal. He’s an affable, can-do character like so many others Cruise has played, a devoted family man and even, by the end, a victim of larger, more amoral forces. He’s also an unrepentant liar, drug smuggler, gun-runner and accessory to everything from murder to insurrection.
Seal, then, is a fine Cruise SOB, right up there with the fast-talking coward from his best recent film, “Edge of Tomorrow” (directed, like “American Made,” by Doug Liman), “Eyes Wide Shut’s” wayward Kubrickian husband and the privileged teen pimp that made him a star in “Risky Business.”
But Tom Cruise has played worse people. Which, for the purposes of this article, means better characters. In honor of his latest lowlife, we list, in order of sublime despicability, our five favorite Tom Cruise bastards.
5.”Tropic Thunder’s” Les Grossman: For Ben Stiller’s 2008 satire of action movie-making, Cruise put on a fat suit, bald cap, ugly glasses and huge prosthetic hands to play the shouty studio head. This full-blown comic burlesque, no doubt informed by some of the producers the actor had made rich (and who made him a star), is far and away the most complete, vulgar and hilarious transformation the…