“Made” is, alas, ill-conceived and half-baked. A dud reunion vehicle for co-stars Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, it fails to rejuvenate the entertaining chemistry they shared as temperamental opposites in the witty, idiomatic independent comedy “Swingers,” released in 1996.
Mr. Favreau wrote that caprice, a professional breakthrough for him and Mr. Vaughn. He adds a directing burden to his responsibilities on “Made,” which probably required a major screenwriting overhaul to stand an outside chance of amounting to something. Within a half-hour or so, it’s clear the premise has nowhere to go except to inertia hell.
In that godforsaken state, the movie depends on Mr. Vaughn to sustain tedious, repetitive rants as a numskull named Ricky Slade while Mr. Favreau cultivates a never-ending slow burn as his indulgent best friend, Bobby Rosigliato. The stolid, responsible party to this exasperating friendship, Bobby is a well-meaning pug who needs an excuse to liberate himself from mob patronage and dependency.
The characters are introduced provoking sarcasm as unskilled but brawling opponents at a club boxing match. Bobby also holds down a day job as a mason at a building site and a night job as bodyguard to his stripper girlfriend, Jessica (Famke Janssen). By way of introduction, we watch Bobby lose the night gig by punching out a reveler who begins to paw Jessica while she’s gyrating on his lap.
Ricky is a motormouth and goldbricker, evidently tolerated because Bobby is willing to “vouch for him,” a devotion that does him little credit. A venerable L.A. gangster named Max (Peter Falk), who takes a certain paternal interest in Bobby, responds to the lap-dancing flare-up by getting the hapless boys out of town.
Entrusted with minimal instructions and $1,500 each in weekend spending money, Bobby and Ricky fly to New York, check into a Soho hotel and keep a rendezvous with a Harlem hood named Ruiz, played by the arguably notorious Sean “P. Diddy” Combs.
As far as Ruiz is concerned, Bobby and Ricky are strictly props, “Max’s guineas,” sent to appear vaguely intimidating while a delivery of drug money to a gangster from Glasgow, Scotland, is completed.
The incorrigible Ricky, unable to keep his mouth shut, keeps butting in, talking out of turn and looking for opportunities to party away the weekend. His misbehavior threatens to torpedo the mission. The ostensible kicker is that this very flair for doing the wrong thing proves to be a lifesaver when the chips are down and Bobby could be at the mercy of an Irish gang. (Although Ricky prides himself on being Irish American, it’s the Irish who get punished as inexcusable outsiders in this context, where turf rights belong to Jews, Italians and blacks).
The actual deus ex machina in the setup is Vincent Pastore of “The Sopranos” as Jimmy, Max’s eyes and ears and trigger finger in Greater New York. Mr. Favreau made a bit appearance as himself in the second season of the series, when Tony’s nephew Christopher envisioned himself as an aspiring filmmaker. The inside joke is reciprocated in “Made,” which borrows Mr. Pastore for a key supporting role and makes room for unbilled bits by stray members of the “Sopranos” cast.
Unlike Mr. Pastore’s character, Bobby and Ricky never begin to resemble characters worth sustaining. If Mr. Vaughn is improvising Ricky’s babbles and blusters, he isn’t doing it with adequate comic judgment or finesse. You want to shut him up by any means at hand.
Mr. Favreau can’t keep his movie on track anymore than Bobby can control Ricky. I suppose this might qualify as a singular irony, but one would need to be very wrapped up in the legend of Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn to derive much amusement from it.
Eventually, the languishing material depends on a sappy twist, with Bobby taking over the upbringing of Jessica’s neglected child, Chloe, winsomely embodied by Mackenzie Vega. Nothing against sappiness; it just doesn’t flatter “Made” any more than thuggy facetiousness.