Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Made - 2001

"Made" - 2001
Dir. by Jon Favreau - 1 hr. 35 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There's two ways to look at "Made."  The negative one is that it seemed like for the decade following "Pulp Fiction," you couldn't swing two dead cats tied together by their tails without hitting a crime/gangster indie film with quick dialogue and a million f-bombs.  The other way to look at "Made" is to consider it an alternate-universe sequel to "Swingers," a sort of throwback to the idea of a comedy duo making multiple films in different settings, but essentially using the same characters.  Either way, it's an early indie directorial effort by Jon Favreau (who wrote this, as well), who had only directed a couple of TV movies prior, and who would go on to direct movies like "Iron Man" and "Elf," and an indie movie from right before Vince Vaughn finally took off in more mainstream comedies.

Bobby (Favreau) and Ricky (Vince Vaughn) are lifelong friends, and Bobby is earnestly pursuing a boxing career, all the while trying to avoid having to work for Max (Peter Falk), a local crime boss.  The boxing thing isn't going as well as it could, and neither is Bobby's "day job," driving for his girlfriend/exotic dancer, Jessica (Famke Janssen).  Ricky's a motor-mouthed hot-head, constantly talking himself into trouble.  After an incident, Bobby can't put off Max anymore, and ends up doing a job out of his comfort zone in order to square things.  He also vouches for Ricky (reluctantly), as it seems Bobby's the only way that Ricky can get any kind of work.  They head for New York, and are there to act as muscle for an exchange of goods for cash, and Ricky threatens to derail things at every turn.

There are some very strong things about this movie, but chief among them is the chemistry between Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau.  And I doubt most people would be all that interested in seeing "Made" if they weren't already aware of that from watching "Swingers."  I think this was the first thing they'd done together since that, which is kind of like how "Dogma" was the first thing Matt Damon and Ben Affleck did together following "Good Will Hunting."  It's not that the second movie doesn't have some appeal, but the real draw is these actors reprising their roles in another movie, even if it's a completely different setting.  Bobby is weary and exhausted from having to constantly babysit Ricky, and Ricky gets all the great lines.  There's a great uncomfortable scene on an airplane that leaves you wondering just how far Ricky's going to push things, and that scenario plays out over and over again.  Ricky is ignorant, ignorant of that ignorance, aggressive and mouthy, and yet almost always seems to escape any real consequences of his actions.  It's pretty much an ideal comedic character.

On the other hand, having lived through the great indie crime movie boom of the late '90s (which, for history's sake, I will say ran through up to about early September of 2001), I can pretty definitively say that this isn't the best of the bunch.  There are too many parts of this film that are cobbled from others (the "worst night ever" from "Pulp Fiction," the incessant swearing was just part of the times, the verbally dominating bosses also from "Pulp Fiction," I guess I should just go ahead and say that "Made" owes a bit to "Pulp Fiction").  Although the story flows pretty well (largely due to the bickering between Ricky and Bobby), there's not much in the way of moments of true drama.  Things happen, and it's clear that Bobby is a good guy at heart, but this is basically a light comedy with a lot of R-rated language (I know I keep harping on this, and language rarely bothers me, but Vaughn had a line that must've contained four or five f-bombs.  In ONE SENTENCE.  And that wasn't entirely uncommon), and a neat bow tied around the story at the end.

"Made" is not unpleasant, or poorly done.  If you take a look at Favreau's career as a mainstream director that would come, this film feels like an outlier.  If feels like the wrong tone before he really found his voice - probably a testament to Quentin Tarantino's immense influence on cinema (and particularly independent cinema) following "Pulp Fiction."  Favreau's tight pacing and directorial chops are present, and his ability to work light comedy would pop up in "Elf" and "Cowboys and Aliens," and his handling of rapid-fire dialogue made him ideal for the first two "Iron Man" movies.  "Made" is a necessary step in Favreau's career to get to those other films that people really know him from, but itself is not a complete package.  It's enjoyable, there's some great lines, but it's probably better understood as a step in his progression as a director than as a significant piece of art on it's own.

2.5 / 5 - TV (HD)

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