Reviewed by Chris Galloway
Columbia-TriStar, widescreen 1.78:1/16x9, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC] & Dolby Surround, Spanish Digital Stereo, subtitles: English, Spanish, single side-single layer, 28 chapters, rated R, 91 min., $27.95, street date 12/28/99.
Directed by Louis Morneau. Starring James Belushi, Michael Beach, Timothy Dalton, Steve Railsback, Carlton Wilborn, Vanessa Angel.
Bill Manucci (James Belushi) is in the Federal Witness Protection Program, during which he still manages to steal $12 million from a bunch of gangsters. When Bill tries to escape with his wife, Debra (Vanessa Angel), the gangsters confront the pair. But the cunning Bill cuts a deal and promises to take them to where the money is supposedly hidden. Instead, he leads them into a trap at a backwoods crystal-meth factory. Double-crossed by his wife, hounded by thugs and a crooked sheriff (Timothy Dalton), Bill is forced to use his brains and his mouth to outwit these thugs.
Jim Belushi is someone I was never really able to buy as an action star. I don't know whether it's because his brother was John Belushi or maybe because of a lot of his comedy outings but I just can't. I have actually avoided many of his action films. The only I thing I had seen until a few years ago was Red Heat and that was one I never thought too highly of. A few years ago he was in a film with Tupac Shakur called Gang Related and I avoided it in it's theatrical run. I did catch it on tape and actually found an exciting and entertaining thriller. But more on that one when the DVD is released.
Because of that film, though, I decided to give Made Men a try. Did I find something as good as Gang Related? No. I didn't I'm sorry to say. I found the usual straight to tape fair that most people are probably accustomed to, just with what looks like a little bit of a higher budget and better acting.
Actually, I don't think it's straight-to-tape/DVD. I heard it appeared on TV (I'm guessing HBO or something along that line) first and was produced by Joel Silver and Richard Donner, the two big action guys in films. They started their own company to make small shoot-em-ups and while this first effort is a loud action extravaganza, it's not overly special, even in the TV movie style.
Belushi plays Bill Manucci. He lives in a small hick town called Harmony with a rather small population of 802 (so small, look how accurate they can be). He of course has a very devious past as a former gangster. He managed to rip off $12 million from his boss, The Skipper and then turn on him for the FBI then gaining witness protection. Our movie begins, though, with some hired goons having found him. They take him and demand him to lead them to the money. He manages to escape and the chase is on. Bill ends up coming across the "second largest crystal meth" plant in the country (uh-huh) and the next thing we know we have a bunch of pissed off hillbillies after him, too, for blowing up their plant.
The movie tries to throw in twists and turns that should surprise but they don't. Most can be seen a mile away. Once the first twist happens all proceeding twists are fairly obvious. So when Sheriff Vex, plays by Timothy Dalton, makes his first appearance, it should become fairly obvious where his loyalties lie.
The movie contains your usual action annoyances. The never-ending clip of bullets, which only have to be changed as long as there's no one else firing at the heroes (or if it's the bad guys turn to go down). You have the cliché of the radio wiring system that somehow manages to blow up an entire truck and then the other guy showing up at exactly the right moment. That's only naming a few.
Yet, while I have so much to pick on, the movie is still kind of fun. And this can be thanked to Jim Belushi and to a point, Dalton. While most of the lines are rather bad, there are the few that are rather funny, like one where, after discovering his wife (Vanessa Angel) has been cheating on him, he says: "So, this means you didn't see Titanic 40 times!?" I'm not a big fan of Dalton (I'm a Bond fan and he was my least favourite Bond) but I rather enjoyed his redneck performance. For a Welsh actor, he has a pretty good southern accent and he has that stereotype "thumbs down the front of his jeans" thing going. Kind of a Welsh John Wayne.
The movie will probably entertain but it will disappear from memory quite quickly. If it wasn't for the fact I jotted down notes for this review, I wouldn't be able to recount as much of the plot I did.
As well, Columbia / Tri-Star has given a pretty forgettable DVD. The film is presented on a single-sided, single layered disc in the format of approximately 1.85:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. There is no full frame version, which is odd from CTS, especially since the film is only 90 minutes. As well, this was made for TV so I don't imagine it was actually filmed in widescreen but I don't know for sure.
The picture is generally fairly good. It's bright and sharp. Detail is quite high and I didn't notice any signs of shimmering. It has a few specs and marks here and there but generally the print is clean. Pixelation is a constant problem, though. A lot of the time when the film cuts from one shot to another for a split second the image turns blocky and the pixels can be made out. This is seen mostly in a scene where we cut from Belushi hanging from a tree down to Michael Beach standing below. I might let it get away with this once but this isn't a sole occurrence. It does this constantly. So generally an A- worthy picture is scooped down to a C+.
The audio fairs better. The audio is presented in a 5.1 track, a Dolby 2.0 track and a Spanish track in Dolby 2.0. I listened to only the 5.1 track. This is an action film so you know there will be noise. And there is a lot of it. Dialogue is mostly contained to the front channels while music, sound effects and the rest of that noise basically uses them all. Movement between is quite good and mostly accurate. That extra .1 channel is used occasionally but not to it's full effect. But for a TV movie, the mix is very impressive. The problem is that it does distort from time to time and music is sometimes louder than dialogue. While the dialogue probably isn't worth much, this is still annoying.
And last but not least, supplements. And we get a few but hardly worth the effort of looking through. We get a rather drab audio commentary by James Belushi and Louis Morneau. I was hoping that Belushi would liven it up but he only does so occasionally. The commentary mostly points out production notes and only a few anecdotes, but I did not get much from it. Some might, but not this guy here.
A group of outtakes are presented and they are funny, but I'm not big on outtakes. They're worth a look just for a couple laughs. You also get some cast and crew biographies but they're your usual CTS biographies and skimp a lot of info. You also have a trailer (probably for CTS video cassettes) and a TV spot.
Made Men can be a somewhat entertaining film but it's fairly predictable and nothing that will break new ground. The same can be said for the DVD. With only a modest video presentation, a pretty good 5.1 track and sparse supplements, I can only go as far as recommend this film as a rental.
Current as of 1/27/2000
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