RIORI Vol. 2, Installment 6: Jon Favreau’s “Made” (2001)


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The Players…

Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Vincent Pastore, Sean “whatever inane handle he’s cooked up for this month” Combs, Fazion Love, Famke Janssen, David O’Hara and Peter Falk.


The Story…

Aspiring boxer Bobby and his idiot pal Ricky get tagged to head off to New York as representatives of an LA mob boss. Their mission—as if they could refuse it—is to secure a money-laundering deal, but trouble hits when the two meet up with would-be made men of their aspirations. It’s a dodgy trip into NYC’s underbelly for stooges Bobby and Ricky. Let’s hope they don’t have to make any (collect) calls home for help.


The Rant…

First off, sorry for the half-assed review the last time out. It’s not that it was written in haste or under the influence. It was just I was so not engaged in the film. It teetered on the edge of being boring, and you know how cranky that makes me (more so than usual).

Call it a hangover from the Finding Forrester review, but what really draws me or anyone into a film are the characters. You know, the vehicles of the film. They’re the guys and gals who really, truly are the reasons why we go out to the multiplex and pay such absurd prices for dry, sh*tty nachos. The reason why I adore Forrester and need a bucket for Cloverfield is an emotional investment in the characters (or lack thereof). It’s the actors, man. The folks that draw us to the box office in the first place.

Okay. There are a bunch of snoot-worthy filmgoers that plunk down their dollars for a movie directed by such-and-such and written by scribble-and-scrawl. F*ck them. Again, movie fans go to the omegaplex to see what the stars a-gonna do. The actors are the teeth upon which the gears grind. Any questions?

*crickets*

Right.

Made is rife with characters. It’s a character driven movie, not unlike its malformed twin, Swingers. Unlike the affable Swingers, Made is demented. In the image of a character study gone horribly awry left of center f*cking stupidly amusing as hell.

Here we go…


Bobby (Favreau) is a chumpy boxer (his night job) who labors as a mason (his day job) to make sure his stripper girlfriend Jessica (Janssen) can hold onto the rent and give her kid a roof over her head. Ricky (Vaughn) is an idiot. He has no backstory beyond being Bobby’s childhood buddy. He’s just an idiot. Did I mention he’s an idiot? And he’s hitched to beleaguered Bobby’s belt like barnacles. Can’t keep his trap shut or his fingers clean. Ever had a wingman who could effortlessly spout out every sexual conquest freely to the latest model that hovered into the airspace of your rapidly shrinking scrotum? Hey y’all, meet Ricky! And Bobby will politely grind his molars into kibble.

Such a dynamic may have worked real keen-like back in high school, but now such finger-poking lost any amusement decades ago. Bobby is tired of Ricky’s narcissistic bone-headedness, constantly having to both babysit him and clean up the many messes that he makes. Such messes always fall into Bobby’s lap to mop up. Now when yet another one of Ricky’s schemes backfires, Bobby has to take the heat in the worst way: he has to perform a favor.

The favor is for Maxie (Falk), local mob boss and Bobby’s benefactor. One night at one of Jessica’s many house calls, Bobby slugs out a guy getting too touchy-feely. The end result is several thousand dollars worth of dental damage to a very influential guy with “connections.” That and Ricky “lost” Maxie’s dry cleaning truck. No matter. Time to pay the fiddler. For their shenanigans, Maxie sets them up on a junket to NYC to secure a money-laundering scheme with smooth operator Ruiz (Combs). It’s a stupidly simple job; just represent the Left Coast. Even these two couldn’t…oh, who the hell are we kidding…


Like I said, Made is all about the characters. Okay, mostly the two leads. Favreau and Vaughn shook things up quite well (like a good martini. Get it?) in Swingers (another movie you should go rent. Go ahead, I’ll wait…….Okay? Told ya). There wasn’t conventional chemistry in that movie, and that repeats itself here. Only this time the dynamic is turned on its ear.

It’s hard not to compare the two movies. Naturally there are shades of Swingers, right down to the quirky music in Made. Vaughn’s motormouth Ricky is like his counterpart Trent only in reverse. Ricky is all anti-charm and exasperates everyone, a paranoiac through his own devices. Favreau instead of being anxious here shoulders utter frustration and masters a severe hangdog; not unlike Bill Murray in Broken Flowers, with his bewildered face falling off his lantern jaw, so gripped tight for almost every scene as he’s forced to deal both with his circumstances and Ricky’s nonstop prattle. He also must’ve had a steel will to not crack up at Vaughn’s antics, most of which had to have been improvised. It’s like Abbott and Costello in Made, but with punching.

I like Peter Falk. Been a fan since The Princess Bride. He was one of the most likeable actors ever, even when he was pissy. And for the few short minutes in the film, boy was he ever endearingly irascible. It works though. This diminutive, half-blind Jewish character actor was able to eject power into a caricature role that would usually embarrass most folks. Not here. He commands both attention and trepidation, to very amusing affects. He’s a nice aperitif to the doggishness of Vaughn and Favreau. By the way, there’s some kind of symbolism with the fight wounds, bandages hanging off Bobby’s face in Maxie’s dark office. Can’t quite put my finger on it but I know something’s there. Something about Maxie’s soliloquy (post comments as they warrant).

Hey, you know what surprised me? Puffy (I’ll call him that since his heyday was in the 90’s). Yes, yes, I know he’s acted before in Monster’s Ball (as an inmate. What? A rap mogul as convict? That was trite when the Straight Outta Compton album debuted. And Cube has been in far more movies). Here he’s got some serious swagger, a being a heavy without overplaying his hand. He was the “serious” actor in this film, and did a nice job of balancing heavy with jovial. Pretty good stuff. Like I said, a surprise in an overtly character driven movie. Reese’s cups to one and all.

Something offhand (but weighty enough not to be stray): You ever notice that films that take place in NYC have a certain swagger prior to 9/11, which got lost after the Towers fell? This movie has that necessary swagger. A confident, ball-sack dragging swagger that is simultaneously empowering and endearing, which a lot of indie projects lack. And no mystique here, Made is an indie cashing in on premium stars. But they’re put to good use, so cheers.

The technical flourishes were good too. Maybe this was why Favreau landed the gig at helming the first two Iron Man films. Really good cinematography plus a keen use of lighting. These are two things that land films subtlety into Oscar territory. Made wasn’t made to win any Oscars. But for the technical stuff that actually wins Oscars and flaunt bigger budgets, Made delivers.

Like I said, Made is a character movie, rife with those you can easily get engaged with, hand-in-glove. It’s also convenient that one of the leads also directed the thing. Favreau’s steady hand guides Made into chewy, harmless, but ultimately entertaining fun. Demented, but entertaining.


The Verdict…

Rent it or relent it? Rent it. If you liked Swingers, you’ll enjoy Made, if only with a left of center (uppercut to the jaw) flair. Where’s Alex Desert?


Stray Observations…

  • “I got enough people pretending to sweep.”
  • The limo’s license plate read DBLDN11. Did ya catch that?
  • “I know you got fish to drop off.”
  • …And they saved the fish.
  • “You have a great Easter.”

Next Installment...

Henry Cavill is Superman, the Last Son of Krypton, the Man of Steel.


 

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