(director/writer: Jon Favreau; cinematographer: Chris Doyle; editor: Curtiss Clayton; music: John O’Brien and Lyle Workman; cast: Jon Favreau (Bobby), Vince Vaughn (Ricky), Peter Falk (Max), Famke Janssen (Jessica), Sean `Puffy’ Combs (Ruiz), Faizon Love (Horrace), Vincent Pastore (Jimmy), David O’Hara (Tom “the Welshman”), Makenzie Vega (Chloe), Jennifer Bransford (Flight Attendant); Runtime: 95; Artisan Entertainment; 2001)
“The film should be pleasing to the converted fans of Vaughn and Favreau…”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A made for comedy film, that at times pleasantly combines a blend of farce and sentiment but fails overall to be endearing. The crime caper part lagged behind the comic antics. This is the same duo of Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn who starred five years ago in Doug Liman’s Swingers, the surprising indie hit with all the catchphrases for the male singles making the LA scene. Here there is an attempt to do more with the characters than spout funny lines, but that’s easier said than done.
Jon Favreau as Bobby is an aspiring boxer with a mediocre record of 5-5-1 who is promoted by an old-time small time LA mobster, Max (Falk), who has his fingers in a lot of different criminal operations. The tie on his record is with his best friend (who does an homage to Andy Kaufman), as the film opens up with that stiff event. It was so bad of a show that even the heckling from the sparse crowd was tepid. Bobby also owes Max for getting him a daytime construction job and work as a body guard/driver for his striptease girls.
Jon Favreau is the screenwriter who makes his debut as a director; he also co-stars as he plays straight man to his good buddy, the lazy, compulsive loudmouth and irksome opportunist Ricky (Vaughn). The film’s value is measured in the great chemistry between the two and the many one-liners that come from Vaughn’s vulgar nonstop talking shtick, as he’s set-up by his earnest and kind-hearted pal.
Bobby’s main squeeze is Jessica (Janssen), a stripper in one of Max’s clubs. Bobby is her watchdog driver who has foolishly fallen in love with her and acts as a surrogate father to the uncared for 6-year-old named Chloe (Vega), someone she had with another. During one lap dancing segment, Bobby takes exception to a customer fondling Jessica and knocks his teeth out. As a result Max gets a dentist bill for eight grand, but he gives Bobby a chance to clear the debt by taking an assignment to do a shady delivery job for him in NYC.
Bobby insists on taking along the worthless Ricky, someone he says that he owes because he saved his life when they were youngsters. Max reluctantly agrees to let him take Ricky along for this vague job on the condition that he vouch for him. Max tells him Ricky better keep his trap shut and should always be ready because the job can go down at anytime, which means no drinking. This sets up the source of comedy, as there’s no way that Ricky can become responsible overnight. Bobby attempts to keep Ricky in line so the job won’t be botched and he could clear his debt and get enough dough so that his honey can quit her striptease gig.
After Ricky proves to be an obnoxious troublemaker on the flight, the boys meet their supercool mob boss contact Ruiz (Sean `Puffy’ Combs) who takes an instant dislike to these amateurs. The boys are looked after by Max’s limo driver, Jimmy (Vincent Pastore-from Soprano fame), who takes them on a sightseeing tour around Manhattan’s nightspots such as Spa and restaurants such as Luna and Tavern on the Green. There’s even a handheld long pan shot of the Angelika movie theater, where indie arthouse films such as this one get a chance to be shown. The shot was taken by cinematographer Chris Doyle, who worked magic for Wong Kar- wei’s action films and here helps create a punch-drunk sleazy NYC milieu.
The job the boys are on proves to be not as easy as Ruiz said it was going to be. They go on a money drop in a Red Hook, Brooklyn bar, where they have a deal going down with the Welshman. The action part becomes stilted and the windup is mushy, of Bobby taking the kid away from his trampy girlfriend.
The film should be pleasing to the converted fans of Vaughn and Favreau who come to this film by way of Swingers and for those who might get off on the continual wacky camaraderie between the two friends. Not being a fan of theirs, but hoping they will get better with more work under their belt, I found them funny in spots but did not find too much else to catch my attention. I called out a few mild catcalls as this messy film went into its final rounds with the bruised Ricky and the cauliflower eared Bobby battling to win the audience over, though I could have just as easily cheered for a few bright spots I saw. These two could be contenders for the lightweight title in the not too distant future, but to move up in weight they need a better script and less of a cloying attitude.
REVIEWED ON 11/5/2001 GRADE: C +