Dir: Jon Favreau. US.2001. 93 min.
The same offbeatsensibility that informed Swingers, Miramax's 1996 hit, is also in evidence in Made, the new crime comedy directed, written, andstarring Jon Favreau - except that, unlike the former picture, which dealt withreal issues, the new one is a basically plotless, character-driven film.Reuniting for the first time since Swingers, Favreau and Vince Vaughn play two haplessfriends, reluctantly and hilariously plunged into the world of organized crime.As a writing and acting vehicle, Made showcases again the duo's unique talents, but it's less effective orfunny as a spoof of Scorsese's crime-gangster pictures, specifically MeanStreets and GoodFellas, with a touch of HBO's The Sopranos thrown in. This mid-summer release should dodecent business within the indie/art-house circuit for domestic distributorArtisan, but won't travel well to the more mainstream locations.
One admires Favreau'sdetermination not to do a sequel, or a similar movie, to Swingers, due to the changing zeitgeist as well his andpartner Vaughn's older age. At the same time, what was special about Swingers, a sharp comedy about a struggling New York actordesperate to find a girlfriend in L.A., was its low budget ($250,000), and thefact that it was the first film to address "the politics of answeringmachine," and how they have become an integral part of dating rituals.Additionally, the mores and lingo used in Swingers was fresh and infectious, imitated to death by thetwentysomething crowd.
The budget for the newcomedy is obviously bigger, which may be a minor problem compared to the factthat Favreau's distinctive brand of humor has lost its novelty. This wouldn'thave been such a shortcoming had the script for Made been more substantial and not quite so dependent onthe endless bickering of two leads.
An aspiring amateur boxer,Bobby (Favreau) spends his days doing a construction job, and his nights as abodyguard for his stripper girlfriend and single mother, Jessica (a terrificJanssen), whose "job" he jealously resents. Bobby refuses to give uphis dream of victory in the ring, despite urging of his deadbeat chum, Ricky(Vaughn), who believes they should pursue higher positions in the organizationof old-time mob boss, Max (Falk).
Indeed, under pressure,Bobby and Ricky accept Max's offer to perform a high-stakes delivery, provingthat they are not only amateur but also clueless as to how the operation works.This becomes clear in practically every encounter they have, beginning with theirharassment of a flight attendant in their first-class trip to New York, andculminating in some disastrous meetings with Ruiz (played by controversialrapper Sean "Puffy" Combs), a club-hopping Downtown Manhattangangster.
Endowed with sharply divergentpersonalities, the duo take a different approach to their task -- and life ingeneral. Bobby wants to get the job done and get home alive, whereas Ricky,believing he's got it "made," ignores mobster protocol, and sets outto enjoy New York's good life of stretch limos, beautiful women, and chicnightclubs.
The story is based on aserviceable premise, namely, how in a matter of hours, Ricky's delusions ofgrandeur are shattered, putting him and his buddy in life-threatening jeopardy.Favreau writes honed dialogue, and the situations into which the duo is thrownare intermittently smart and funny. But it's not enough for a feature-lengthmovie (even one barely 93 minutes long) that also falls victim to a repetitiverhythm. Almost every scene follows the same pattern: Macho bravado talk leadsto a disastrous act by Ricky, ending in yet another vocal argument and physicalfight between the couple.
That said, in his featuredirectorial debut, Favreau shows promise as a filmmaker highly sensitive to hisensemble. Made is peppered withterrific turns, from the leads to Combs and Janssen, to Falk, whose rolerecalls his work for John Cassavetes, to Vincent Pastore, as the limo driver.Photography by Chris Doyle, who shot Wong Kar Wai's exquisite In the Mood ForLove, contributes visual pleasureway beyond the light narrative in which it is contained.
Prod co: Artisan Entertainment
US dist: Artisan
Int'l sales: SummitEntertainment
Exec prod: John Starke
Prods: Vince Vaughn,Favreau
DoP: Chris Doyle
Prod des: Anne Stuhler
Ed: Curtis Clayton
Music: John O'Brien, LyleWorkman
Main cast: Jon Favreau,Vince Vaughn, Peter Falk, Sean Combs, Famke Janssen, Vincent Pastore