Made
review by Cynthia Fuchs, 13 July 2001

Boy Bonding

This is P. Diddy's big week. While it's unlikely that he'll match J-Lo's recent feat and have a number one opening movie and chart-topping album the same week (but really, who's even competing?), he does have a movie out at the time when he's releasing his new album, P. Diddy & the Bad Boy Family: The Saga Continues. This week P and the Family (G-Dep, Black Rob) made promotional appearances on a couple of Viacom venues, 106th & Park and Hot Zone, and P then showed up on TRL, with his co-stars from the movie, Made, Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn.

I think this last was my favorite P moment for the week. Everyone knows the man has a genius for self-promotion. Here he spent their precious seconds with Carson blabbing away, while Vaughn and Favreau mostly looked on, not a little nonplussed. While the film's writer-director-producer-star Favreau tried valiantly to keep some control of what was going on (for example, talking about the movie whenever he could), the Sean John-clad P was off yonder, having a grand time as if he was there all by himself. By the end of their appearance, Vaughn had stopped even trying to talk, and his consternated expressions perfectly captured the moment. P charged ahead, demonstrating just what it means to be powerful, to be privileged, to be the P. Diddy. He encouraged TRL viewers to see the movie, naming all the stars who were "in" it, including himself and his co-stars, as well as Britney Spears, 'NSynch, and a few other popsters. Carson could stand it no longer: "That's it!" he laughed, sort of. "Just lie!"

You have to admire P. Diddy. Or I do. There's no one so in love with himself (and so visibly happy about being in love with himself), assured that this love is the most splendiferous love of all. Perhaps best of all, he works it so folks around him believe it too. (Case in point: his Sean John clothing line is advertised on the Made website, www.gettingitmade.com.) And wouldn't you know? This attitude makes P the ideal person to play Ruiz, the awesome NYC gangster in Made. Favreau plays Bobby and Vaughn plays Ricky, longtime friends, smalltime boxers, and aspiring tough guys who get a chance to make it to the bigtime when Max (Peter Falk) sends them to do a job in New York. That job is to meet with Ruiz and make an exchange of drugs and money. Bobby and Ricky, however, have their own issues (drawn in part from the chemistry between Favreau and Vaughn, established in Swingers, to which this film is a "follow-up," not a sequel). Ricky and Bobby are so concerned with making an impression, with living up to gangster expectations, that they make one error after another.

And Ruiz is the epitome of the scary guy they want to impress. Favreau told me that he was surprised when P asked to be considered for the role. But then he thought, "This could really work, because even if he just comes off like himself, there's an intrinsic humor built into our making all these faux pas in front of this guy, about whom the perception is that he's this really dangerous character. Especially at the time, with the gun charges being brought up against him, so to the vast American movie-going audience, it's like having John Gotti in the movie."

John Gotti. P is having a good week.

Bobby starts the movie working for Max in LA, body-guarding a stripper named Jessica (Famke Janssen), who also happens to be his (Bobby's) girlfriend. When, at some frat-boy-style bachelor party, he loses his cool and assaults the clients who are putting their hands on Jessica (one of whom is played by Tom Morello, inventive guitarist for the band that used to be Rage Against the Machine). Max takes Bobby off the Jessica detail and sends him to New York. Ricky comes along, though Max clearly detests him, because Bobby, out of loyalty, includes him as part of a package deal. Poor Bobby. He works so hard to make sense of the nonsense (usually violent and cruel nonsense) that surrounds him that you start to feel some compassion for him, almost in spite of yourself.

The trip East makes visible Bobby's quest for self-respect, self-knowledge, and, with a little luck, a down payment on a house for him, Jessica, and Jessica's wise-beyond-her-years daughter Chloe (Makenzie Vega). Max sends Bobby and Ricky in style: they fly first class, have a mob-world-experienced limo driver, Horrace (Faizon Love), a wad of cash to use wisely, and a fancy-schmancy hotel room where a couple of cheeseburgers cost $48. All they need to do is remain absolutely sober and available for the few days they're in town, ready to do Max's bidding at a moment's notice -- and they've been given guns and a couple of state-of-the-art pagers (complete with extra batteries) to make sure they are. It's no surprise that things go wrong. Mostly, they go wrong because Ricky can't keep his mouth shut, while Bobby looks on in barely disguised horror. They get on the plane and Bobby crudely comes on to the flight attendant (Jennifer Bransford), who is seasoned enough to handle him, proficiently; they get inside the hotel room and Ricky abuses and undertips the bellhop (Sam Rockwell); they meet Ruiz at a restaurant and Ricky says all the wrong shit, offending Horrace and angering Ruiz. This episode sets up P's big moment, his first dramatic performance in a feature film. He handles it well: he's smooth and rightfully impatient, slightly vacant and distracted, convincingly annoyed by gadfly Ricky, whose perpetual antagonisms are enough to set everyone's teeth on edge. And so Ruiz's response to Ricky's request for a gun -- "The last person I want with a gun is you" -- is strangely sympathetic, endowing the gangster with a touch of comic understatement, as well as real-life resonance for our boy P.

Trying to maintain some control of the situation, Ruiz starts ordering Bobby and Ricky around, telling them to wait, to show up, to wait, to show up. Finally, they're set to meet him at a nightclub, where they find they are not "on the list," and while Ricky makes a scene at the entrance, the doorman lets in Screech -- yes, Saved By the Bell's Screech, more or less grown up and sporting a gorgeous girl on his arm. Ricky, don't you know it, just about blows a gasket at this affront. Through all this commotion, Bobby looks more appalled by the minute. But he's hardly blameless. He and Ricky have a particular rhythm, based in beating each other down.

Whenever something goes wrong, they're at each other's throats, or more accurately, wrestling, pounding, kicking, and generally falling all over one another. Their fighting is so awkward and so pathetic that you can't help but wonder at their blustery ferocity. Still, they are friends forever, based on an early run-in with the law, for which Ricky took the fall, demonstrating his stand-up-guyness and making Bobby eternally grateful. The fact that in each scene they appear increasingly more bloodied and bruised only makes them look more menacing to the thugs they're dealing with, who have no idea that they're inflicting these emblems of affection on one another.

At last, Ruiz hooks them up with an Irish gangster know around town as "The Welshman" (played by The District's David Patrick O'Hara). Bobby, Ricky, Horrace, and the Welshman go on an all-night bar-hopping bender, bonding and competing before they're going to cut their big fat deal the next day. It's a ridiculous exercise: the real tough guys can snap in and out of their hazes, but Ricky and Bobby are out of their league. The film keeps upping the ante of attempted intimacy among men, so that it becomes funny and a little sad at the same time.

Such intimacy comes at a cost, particularly for Jessica: thinly sketched, she's the bad partner (and bad mom) who makes the boys' relationship, as dysfunctional as it is, look like a viable alternative. You might imagine a movie built around her travails, one that delves into what makes her such a rowdy and miserable character. But Bobby can't imagine those travails, and that's the point: his combined good intentions and cluelessness make him want things he can't have and dream things that can't be. He'll never be Ruiz, and that's just as well. In the end, Bobby does figure out what's most important to him, which is most definitely not to achieve P-ness. And for that little bit of self-awareness, his journey is worthwhile.


Click here to read Cynthia Fuchs' interview.

Written and
Directed by:

Jon Favreau

Starring:
Jon Favreau
Vince Vaughan
Sean Combs
Peter Falk
Famke Janssen
Faizon Love
Makenzie Vega
David Patrick O'Hara
Vincent Pastore
Tom Morello
Jonathan Silverman

Rated:
R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
accompanying
parent or adult
guardian.

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