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Made

(Jon Favreau, USA, 2001)


 


The comedy of embarrassment is surprisingly rare in cinema, despite Martin Scorsese's masterpiece The King of Comedy (1983).

But embarrassment, as the only possible reaction to the spectacularly and excruciatingly misplaced manners of Ricky (Vince Vaughan), is the sole subject of Made.

It is a typical story of everyday losers and dreamers in a low-level criminal world of bars and back alleys. Bobby (Jon Favreau) has a hard time keeping his cool as the bodyguard watching over his stripper girlfriend, Jessica (Famke Janssen). Ricky encourages him to take a chance as a delivery-man for a mob boss, Max (Peter Falk).

Once Bobby and Ricky are on the job in New York, however, mixing with the likes of the flashy Ruiz (Sean Combs), everything starts falling apart – mainly because Ricky never knows when to stop trying to talk big.

This film is being promoted as a sequel of sorts to Swingers (1996), which I described at the time of its release as the nadir of American independent cinema. The key creator of that film, Doug Liman, has moved on to greener pastures (Go, 1999), so this time writer-actor Favreau steps into the director's chair. Like Swingers it is a two-hander, with the central focus on the interplay between Favreau and Vaughn.

Made is a shrill, repetitive gabfest that takes us back to the era when non-stop, colourful swearing was considered a prime novelty in movies. The settings are less drab and the staging less constipated than in Swingers, but it still always comes down to two guys yelling at each other – on streets, in clubs and in the back of cars.

The influence of TV's The Sopranos is never far away, but Favreau rarely achieves the fluency of action, sharpness of characterisation or disquieting humour which distinguishes that program. Sadly, Favreau takes his place alongside Kevin Smith, Whit Stillman and all the other contemporary American directors for whom the spoken word is boringly paramount.

There are minor amusements on display here – chief among them the cameo from Falk, which is closer to his work with John Cassavetes in the '70s than his rumpled, charming Columbo image.

© Adrian Martin February 2002


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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