Made Men

Agroup of working-class, Italian-American lads grow up together, argue with their girlfriends, get in too deep with the local mob and face those requisite "hard choices" in "Made Men." We've seen this movie so many times lately, one might expect debut feature director Don Close to have some compelling, fresh excuse for revisiting it. Ixnay --- unless casting himself as the nominal lead counts. Thoroughly routine effort might find minor berth as a vid and cable item.

With:
Peter (Reno) Renotti ..... Don Close Vinny Morganti ..... James Biberi Toni-Ann Antonelli ..... Cara Buono Nicky (Shoes) Piazza ..... Thomas Calabro Tommy (The Bull) Vitaglia ..... Frank Vincent Lou Bracco ..... Johnny Williams Ronnie Perkins ..... Tye Pierson Sal Ponti ..... Andy Fiscella Angie ..... Aida Turturro

Agroup of working-class, Italian-American lads grow up together, argue with their girlfriends, get in too deep with the local mob and face those requisite “hard choices” in “Made Men.” We’ve seen this movie so many times lately, one might expect debut feature director Don Close to have some compelling, fresh excuse for revisiting it. Ixnay — unless casting himself as the nominal lead counts. Thoroughly routine effort might find minor berth as a vid and cable item.

Long initial flashback crudely fills us in on the childhood friendship of Peter (aka Reno), Vinny and Sal; they raise mild hell at school and face various dysfunctional situations (alcoholic/abusive dads) at home. Twenty years later, trio are pushing 30 yet still hanging out on home turf in Queens. Reno (Close) is the sensitive one, an aspiring writer (natch) stuck day-jobbing behind the wheel of an ice-cream truck. His girlfriend, Toni-Ann (Cara Buono), offers encouragement, if impatience as well; their future becomes more immediate, however, once she gets a home pregnancy-test result.

Sal (Andy Fiscella) is unemployed, a parent and much yelled at by his exasperated wife. Hot-tempered Vinny (James Biberi) has no interest in settling down — save “professionally” with the local don (Frank Vincent), who soon has him strong-arming protection money and snuffing foes. Latter activities of course lead to climactic violence that sucks in all lead figures.

Flavorless as an ensemble character study, and slack as a crime meller, “Made Men” provides nothing special to alleviate its plodding obviousness. Humor and cinematic flair are in particularly short supply. Perfs limn stereotypes borrowed wholesale from Scorsese, “The Wanderers” (“Walk Like a Man” even plays below opening credits), et al. Sole swing at breaking formula is introduction of Ronnie (Tye Pierson), an African-American pal who’s grudgingly accepted into this white boy’s club — to a point. But character doesn’t add much in the end, beyond another body to be shot at in the overblown finale.

Low-budget tech aspects are routine. Star, director and co-scenarist Close previously made a 40-minute spoof of Tarantino-type pics — thus making it yet more puzzling that “Made Men” should explore with such earnest juicelessness the same urban-drama cliches Tarantino and a few other new-school directors have taken pains to revivify.

Made Men

Production: A Close Encounters Prods. presentation in association with Pool Party Prods. Produced by Don Close, James Biberi, Jan Ross. Executive producers, Stephen C. Smith, John Dorian. Co-producer, Dominick J. Daniels. Directed by Don Close. Screenplay, Close, James Biberi.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Bud Gardner; editor, Scott Gibney; music, Chris Hajian; production design, John Nyomarkay; sound, Andrew Edelman; associate producers, Victoria Lucai, Jon Sweet. Reviewed at Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, Sept. 30, 1997. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With: Peter (Reno) Renotti ..... Don Close Vinny Morganti ..... James Biberi Toni-Ann Antonelli ..... Cara Buono Nicky (Shoes) Piazza ..... Thomas Calabro Tommy (The Bull) Vitaglia ..... Frank Vincent Lou Bracco ..... Johnny Williams Ronnie Perkins ..... Tye Pierson Sal Ponti ..... Andy Fiscella Angie ..... Aida Turturro

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