Writer/director/actor Jon Favreau's darkly comic follow-up to Swingers (and long-awaited reunion with Vince Vaughn) is a tale of two bumbling buddies who get caught up in mob business.
Humble and sincere Bobby (Favreau), an aspiring boxer, and Ricky (Vaughn), his obnoxious, loser friend, work construction for a two-bit mob boss named Max (Peter Falk). Bobby just wants to make a decent wage to support his stripper girlfriend (Famke Janssen) and her daughter, but whether its his own temper or Ricky's big mouth, these two guys can't stay out of trouble. Max gives them one last chance to prove they're good for something and assigns them to a mysterious job that takes them to New York City, where they hook up with a slick gangsta named Ruiz (Sean Combs). The two try not to look like the fish out of water that they are and attempt to carry out Max's instructions. But to Bobby's consternation, the insufferably cocky Ricky never fails to get them into hot water and what should be an easy job turns into a comedy of errors.
Friends in real life, Favreau and Vaughn have an honest chemistry on-screen and their long-awaited reunion is a joy. Though they reprise similar characters as in Swingers (serious-guy Favreau, smart-ass Vaughn), Favreau delves deeper into his role as the floundering, honest, good guy who somehow cares deeply about Ricky despite his incessantly infuriating behavior. Vaughn hits the bullseye as a strident, volatile jerk who can't keep his mouth shut. You never really like him, but you can't wait to see what he'll do next--his missteps and offenses are so unbelievable you wince, but you can't look away. Though not on-screen very often, Falk is a hoot as the take-no-bull mob boss who is sick of both schlubs. Combs, surprisingly, makes a more than adequate turn as the hardcore gangster who finds himself enmeshed in Bobby and Ricky's chaos. His sidekick, Horace (Faizon Love), is pretty funny, too.
First-time director Favreau shows real talent behind the camera, keeping up the pace and allowing the story to unfold while developing the fleshed-out characters at a swift, even tempo. In Made, the journey is more important than the destination--the slim plot takes a back seat to the story's twists and turns. Favreau draws the viewer into his world so deeply it's easy to forget you're in a movie theater and not with the guys as they sit in Max's office or in a NYC cab (cinematographer Christopher Doyle helps keeps it interesting with a deft touch and a handheld camera). The locales juxtapose nicely with this uneasy escapade--Bobby and his wanna-be-a-player pal stick out like sore thumbs at both the slick clubs and posh hotels and the seedy low-rent neighborhoods of the Big Apple.
Don't go into this buddy pic thinking it's a Swingers redux--Made is blacker, deeper and more unsettling, but more satisfying to boot.