2001, R, 95 min. Directed by Jon Favreau. Starring Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Famke Janssen, Sean Combs, Faizon Love, Peter Falk, Vincent Pastore, Makenzie Vega.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 27, 2001
Made marks the first reunion between actors Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn since the breakout success of Swingers in 1996, which Favreau also wrote. This time, Favreau not only co-stars but also debuts as a director. The result is … well, let's just say the result is not “money.” Made is a comedy about a couple of big, dumb lugs, Bobby (Favreau) and Ricky (Vaughn), who are best friends. Losers at most everything they do, the pair's friendship is as unshakable as it is inexplicable. Friends since childhood, Made never explains the reasons for their loyalty to each other, which is just one of the many problems with the movie. The film opens with a scene of the two boxing together in a ring, but they are such losers that none of the spectators can muster any rooting enthusiasm and they both leave the ring with facial bruises that they wear throughout the rest of the movie. In addition to his flatlining boxing career, Bobby does odd jobs for Max (Falk), a kindly crime capo who employs him on various construction projects and as a bodyguard for Bobby's girlfriend Jessica (Janssen), who works as a stripper. Bobby would like nothing more than to settle down with Jessica and her young daughter (Vega), but lacks the means of support to allow Jessica to quit her job. He makes matters worse when he flies out of control and beats up on a partier who gets fresh with Jessica. Instead of excommunicating Bobby from the crime syndicate because of his irresponsibility, Max gives this screw-up further tasks to perform. And as with all his other chores, Bobby insists on bringing along Ricky, a loose cannon with such loose lips that there seems to be no circuitry intervening between his id and his mouth. Vaughn's performance is an act of bravery and faith. It is so deep into annoying-dumb-guy territory that it becomes just that: annoying. It's a tight-rope act whose watchability is totally dependent on the viewers' anticipation of the fall: When is someone gonna knock this guy's lights out? Max's mission sends the buddies to New York, where they meet up with real mobsters played believably by the likes of Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos' Big Pussy) and Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy, Puff Daddy). Made climaxes with a few humorous moments, but, for the most part, the dialogue and the setups are miserably unfunny and dull. The undistinguished camerawork by Christopher Doyle (best-known for his dazzling work for Wong Kar-wai) is generally murky and plodding. The characterizations recall the inarticulate male bonding of Cassavetes' best work (further emphasized by the casting of Falk), but gets none of Cassavetes' poetry. There are also more than a few shades here of Mean Streets, Mickey Blue Eyes, and The Pope of Greenwich Village. Totally in the distance is the memory of Swingers, whose hipster goof has been replaced by a stupid goof. This may be what is meant by the “dumbing down of America.” (See interview with Favreau and Vaughn on p.40 of this week's Screens section.)