Bobby (Jon Favreau) is a good guy who’s got it all wrong. He’s got the wrong dream in wanting to be a prize-fighter when he only has little boxing skills. He’s got the wrong girlfriend in Jess (Famke Janssen), a stripper without the usual heart of gold who’d rather snort a line of coke than take care of her little daughter Chloe (Makenzie Vega). He’s got the wrong mentor in Max (Peter Falk), the Jewish head of a crime outfit. And Bobby most certainly has the wrong best friend in Ricky (Vince Vaughn), a loud-mouthed asshole if there ever was one. Wrong also is whatever rationalizing that got him to fly to New York with Rick as a partner to do a job with Harlem hoodlum Ruiz (Sean Combs). Shit can happen, and it will!
“Made” is the directorial debut of Jon Favreau, though you could say that his “real” first film was “Swingers”, which he wrote but got Doug Liman to direct. Favreau has said that he was almost acting as a filmmaker on that one, even though he wasn’t credited as co-director. Seeing “Made” makes you believe his claim, as it’s as stylish and dynamically crafted. Both movies star Favreau and real-life buddy Vince Vaughn and revolve around their dysfunctional friendship, and both pictures have an old fashioned “cool” to them with their use of Dean Martin songs, designer suits and fashionable clubs. The difference is that instead of making the rounds in Vegas and L.A. in search of beautiful babies, this time Jon and Vince are wannabe gangsters who have no idea what they’re doing.
The film has sort of a “Sopranos” feel, but Favreau (who’s guest starred on the hit HBO show) puts his own spin on it. He has a knack for taking any ordinary situation and twisting it into an hilariously pointless confrontation. Whenever the two not-so-wise guys get on a plane or in a hotel or whatever, Ricky finds a way to embarrass Bobby and piss off everyone they meet ! And when things get serious and potentially dangerous, Favreau has even more fun playing off mobster movie conventions. I like that it’s never clear what these two fools are supposed to do ; they seem not to know themselves what the job they’re pulling is, and they spend most of their time arguing, fighting or making up over drinks.
As witty as Favreau’s dialogue is and as engaging as the look and tone he gives the film are, I think what’s most admirable is how generous he is with his cast. Instead of keeping all the best lines and moments for himself, he’s created interesting, colorful parts for his fellow actors, leaving himself as the straight man to Vaughn’s never-ending laughable bullshit. Ricky is a wonderfully obnoxious character, who never fails to complicate simple situations by pushing everyone’s buttons and being a complete ass. The film also features amusing performances by Peter Falk as the manipulative Max, Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore as a limo driver, Faizon Love as big black goon Horrace, Sam Rockwell as a hotel bellboy, and even a cameo by Saved by the Bell‘s Screech! I worried that P. Diddy, the rapper formerly known as Puff Daddy, would stink up the movie, but he’s convincing enough that you forget about his off screen persona.
The only character which feels short-changed is Famke Janssen’s, who doesn’t get much to do. It’s like she’s there only to set up a not very effective sentimental backdrop which culminates with a rather unwarranted bittersweet ending. I could have done without that part of the film and even more quirky, comic mayhem, but thankfully the melodramatic scenes are few and far between. “Made” remains a clever, hip crime comedy akin to the best Elmore Leonard adaptations. Mucho worth checking out.