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Do not call Jon Favreau "money."

© 2001, Artisan
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Everywhere you go nowadays, it's all Mafia-this, and Wiseguy-that. It's enough to make a person choke on a Cannoli. Then comes "Made" (IMDb listing), the new comedy from Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, the guys who unleashed "Swingers" on the world in 1996. "Made" isn't an organized crime comedy. I think the film's tagline sums it up best: it's a "disorganized crime" comedy. Sharply assembled and boisterously funny, "Made" makes it possible for me to stomach at least two more years of Mafia tales.

Ricky (Vince Vaughn) and Bobby (Jon Favreau) are two stumbling boxers who cannot seem to get their act together. Ricky is a moron who rides on Bobby's coattails from menial job to menial job. Bobby dreams of a better life for himself, yet is inexplicably attached to his stripper girlfriend (Famke Janssen) and deeply bonded to her 4 year-old daughter. Ricky and Bobby are given a chance by a local mafia don (Peter Falk) to go to New York and chaperon a deal with an East Coast thug (Sean "P-Diddy" Combs). Ricky and Bobby immediately take to the criminal life and proceed to ruin everything through their inexperience and dreams of fat paychecks and beautiful women. Afraid of retribution, the two buddies quickly attempt to patch up their mess and escape harm.

Debuting as a director, star, and writer Jon Favreau certainly employs his influences in "Made." From the Cassavetes camerawork and performances to the Woody Allen New York locals, Favreau takes all of his reverence and rolls it all into this tidy inaugural feature. A far grittier comedy than many will expect, "Made" works its low budget unlike any film I've seen in a long time. In fact, there is a happiness in just how little Favreau gets away with. Reminiscent of a 1970s, B-list crime film, "Made" revels in its spare lighting, tiny sets, and consistently changing locations. It bounces along in time to the energetic soundtrack, and God help me, it even manages to bring back the fun in watching an Italian-American wield a gun. For those of us without HBO, that's saying something.

Favreau is also savvy enough a newbie director to know when to stand back and let his secret weapon take over. Actor Vince Vaughn is well known for his smooth talking characters and his energetic performances, but nothing can quite prepare you for his role in "Made." As a slightly dim-witted fighter with little to no inner-monologue, Vaughn eats the screen alive with his insatiable performance. Both flirtatious and foolish at the same time, Vaughn's Ricky is a powderkeg of a character who always seems to find trouble, then manages to connect the right string of words to get out of harm's way. Vaughn's acting feels more like a free-form jazz performance then an actor in a comedy. He works quick and easy, and is able to swat away any roadblock of dialog that Favreau and the cast throw at him.

Favreau, understanding that it's foolish to try to out-act his partner, literally stands in the background for most of the film, nodding his head intermittently. Favreau permits his character the emotional arc of the piece, as Bobby struggles to keep his girlfriend faithful and her daughter in one piece, and that seems a little more suitable for the writer/director/star then to try to outshine the polished and boisterously entertaining performance from Vaughn.

One of the more discerning aspects to "Made" will be obvious the minute you step into the theater. Since the film appears to be largely improvised, the expletives comes rumbling in as soon as the actors get stuck for verbal inspiration. The swearing in "Made" is simply overwhelming. Every single line is a variation on the F-word. I've never minded objectionable language in films before - in fact, I encourage it. Nevertheless, "Made" is swallowed whole by its profanity (I'm sure some kind of record is set in this film for language). It's really a shame Favreau signs off on this, since he has fashioned a genuinely funny and inventive little movie.

"Made" is a much stronger film then "Swingers" due to Vaughn and Favreau being allowed greater creative control. While the story is familiar, the enthusiasm and sparkle to "Made" is a nice cool breeze on the stagnant independent (or merely low budget) film scene.

Filmfodder Grade: A-

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