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(2001) (Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn) (R)

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Comedy/Drama: After taking a delivery job of sorts for a mob figure, two friends react quite differently to accomplishing the task at hand.
Bobby (JON FAVREAU) is an ordinary guy trying to get by in life. An aspiring, low-level boxer, he spends his days working on construction sites with his deadbeat best friend, Ricky (VINCE VAUGHN), and then nights as a bodyguard and driver for his stripper girlfriend, Jessica (FAMKE JANSSEN). Ever the opportunist, Ricky tries to persuade Bobby to ask for a higher-level job working for mob boss, Max (PETER FALK), and his persistence eventually pays off.

Accepting a high-stakes delivery job that flies them first-class to New York, the two immediately differ in their response to completing the job at hand, of which they know few details. Bobby simply wants to make the delivery and return home to Jessica and her young daughter, Chloe (MAKENZIE VEGA).

Ricky, on the other hand, suddenly thrives in his new, upscale lifestyle, and his insolent and cocksure behavior soon puts the two at risk. That's particularly true when their limo driver, Jimmy (VINCENT PASTORE), takes them to meet Manhattan mobster Ruiz (SEAN COMBS) and his right-hand man, Horrace (FAIZON LOVE).

From that point on, as they attempt to complete their job - which includes meeting Tom the Welshman (DAVID O'HARA) who's yet another link in the criminal chain -the two find themselves in way over their heads and facing progressive amounts of risk and danger.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
While acting, by its very nature, is a collaborative endeavor, some performers seem to view the profession as a competitive business. That's especially true in the cinema where roles are relatively sparse, the amount of good movies being made is even smaller, and the many actors and actresses hope to stand out enough that they'll be chosen and perhaps someday eventually join the small $20 million per picture club.

Thus, it's always surprising to see two or more performers who repeatedly team up for film after film. Although some of that's due to sheer coincidence and/or simply appearing in films with large ensemble casts, the history of movies is riddled with such partnerships and pairings. Among some of the more familiar ones of the past have been Hope and Crosby, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Day and Hudson and Lemmon and Matthau.

It's still probably too early to assess whether Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau will join such illustrious ranks, or whether they even want to. Whatever the case, the two have a terrific, give and take chemistry together and that's rather apparent in their second collaborative outing, "Made."

First appearing together in 1996's cultish indie film, "Swingers" - that Favreau wrote - the two starred as a recently dumped and depressed, aspiring comedian and his cocksure best friend, a point that seemed real enough since the two became fast friends after meeting on the set of 1993's "Rudy." Here, the two continue their "trend" of playing small-scale, non-heroic types with Vaughn stepping up that self-assuredness and adding a noticeable level of insolence to his character.

Playing off the comedic theme of ordinary guys getting caught up in over their heads in a plot of escalating and hopefully humorous complications, the film - written and directed by Favreau in his debut behind the camera -is moderately entertaining. Yet, much of that depends on one's tolerance for abrasive style humor that stems from some characters who are annoying to most everyone - be they other characters in the film or viewers in the theater or at home - and cause or generate additional trouble for the main characters.

The intended "fun" of the film is that such characters don't know the full extent of the job/mission they've agreed to perform for a mobster, and we don't know what will happen with or to them over the course of the story. While that plays out to some successful extent, it's never quite as much clever or imaginative fun as one would like to see in a film like this.

As in most such organized crime capers, our hapless protagonists run into and encounter various sorts of criminal characters and situations that have the potential to elicit laughs as the story unfolds. There's Ruiz, the Manhattan mobster played by rapper/entrepreneur Sean Combs (a.k.a. Puffy Daddy, P. Diddy or whatever you want to call him in his film debut) and his comical assistant, Horrace, played by Faizon Love ("The Replacements," "The Players Club").

Vincent Pastore ("Deuces Wild," HBO's "The Sopranos") plays an all-knowing but mum limo driver and David O'Hara ("Braveheart," "The Devil's Own") appears as the Welshman who has something to do with the overall plan. Peter Falk ("Murder Incorporated," TV's "Columbo") shows up as the comedic Mafioso and proves he can cuss along with the best of them, but Famke Janssen ("X-Men," "House on Haunted Hill") is pretty much wasted in her role as Bobby's stripper girlfriend.

While there's nothing particularly wrong with any of their performances, the characters they inhabit aren't developed or funny enough for a film like this and don't offer enough complications to generate big laughs or maintain the necessary and proper comedic momentum and pace.

Fortunately, the performances from and interplay between Jon Favreau ("The Replacements," "Very Bad Things") and Vince Vaughn ("The Cell," the remake of "Psycho") makes up for much of that and keeps things, for the most part, interesting and engaging. Of course, one's view of that depends on whether the characters' constant bickering, spewing of profanity and/or Vaughn's insolent character come off as funny or just abrasively annoying.

I found it to have both qualities, but the film's thankfully short runtime of ninety some minutes means that the latter doesn't become too overbearing. Either way, there's no denying that the two play well off each other and that's what will probably make the film work for many viewers.

Nevertheless, neither they nor the film - while moderately entertaining - is as much fresh fun as occurred with "Swingers." Decent, but nothing special and pretty much instantly forgettable, "Made" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 27, 2001 / Posted July 20, 2001

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