4 September 2001 | uglykidmatt
A very funny comedy...maybe
Jon Favreau's "Made" is an unusual film. It's ostensibly a comedy, and indeed a lot of it made me laugh hard. Still, when I thought about it later, I realized that I had not really seen a comedy at all. The situation isn't funny, the main character doesn't react to it in a funny way, and the resolution isn't played for laughs. What you get is a straight-laced, sometimes even rather flat kitchen-sink crime drama which Vince Vaughn grabs by the throat and, through the sheer force of his heroically obnoxious portrayal, turns into a bizarre sort of almost-comedy.
Jon Favreau is Bobby, a rather unskilled L.A. club fighter who makes his real living doing odd jobs for Max (a gravelly Peter Falk), the local small-time crime boss. Bobby lives with a stripper (Famke Janssen) who he bodyguards for, but one night a bachelor party guest puts his hands where they shouldn't go, and Bobby lays into him rough. Max is furious, but he likes Bobby, and gives him a chance to right his wrong. He must go to New York, rendezvous with big-cheese crime kingpin Ruiz (Sean "Puffy" Combs), and make some sort of ill-defined "drop". It might all go smoothly...if Ricky wasn't along for the ride.
Ricky is Vince Vaughn's character, and he's like a force of nature..if nature was obnoxious and pushy. He is not the sharpest cheese in the fridge, and he begins acting like a Mafia big shot even before they leave L.A., tormenting their stewardess with stupid questions. He bulldozes hotel valets, waitresses, club bouncers, and pick-ups with the sheer volcanic power of his boorishness, and most of it is actually really funny (not all of it; I actually started to feel bad for the stewardess). Vaughn proved his ability to play charmingly rude in "Swingers", still my pick for the best romantic comedy of the last decade. Here, it's like that film's Trent has been given a sharper suit, a mob expense account, and a small but definitely serious chip on his shoulder. Ricky is the reason "Made" is being called a comedy; he basically provides the picture's only laughs.
The other performers operate on various levels of reality. Favreau is more or less the film's lead character, but he's basically there just to play off Vaughn's disgraceful behavior and act indignant when Ricky gets them in another scrape. Falk is like a caricature of a too-powerful- too-long neighborhood kingpin. Janssen's character is played completely straight, and comes off as unlikable and rather depressing. Oddly enough, the only other actors in the film who really seem to be contributing a humorous atmosphere are Combs and Faizon Love, who plays the boys' liaison to Ruiz. Combs has a surprisingly versatile array of put-upon expressions, and Love's massive bulk and hostile bark of a voice work to scary-amusing effect.
Overall, though, Favreau seems a little shaky on what the tone of his film should be ("Swingers", written by Favreau but directed by Doug Liman, had a confidence that this picture never even approaches). There's lots of gritty hand-held camera from Hong Kong-based lensman Chris Doyle, and the sets' grungy low-rent atmosphere (even the hotels that are supposed to be nice look dark and a bit run-down) make it sometimes feel like we're watching a weird documentary rather than a fiction film, let alone a comedy. Favreau's dialogue is yet another "realistic" display that illustrates, if anyone had any doubts, that the f-word in and of itself is not a punchline. The film has a bummer of an ending followed by an out-of-nowhere epilogue that, quite frankly, I didn't understand.
I guess "Made" is what you'd call a human comedy, a picture where we're supposed to smile with recognition as we see characters not unlike ourselves who find themselves in unbelievable situations and try to deal with them just by being who they are. I'm usually not a big fan of this type of film. If you're calling it a comedy, I'd better be laughing. Still, Vaughn, Combs, and Love provide enough good moments that the picture is worth checking out at least once. Just don't expect "Swingers", and you should be all right.