MADE MEN. Decade Pictures, 1999. James Belushi, Michael Beach, Timothy Dalton, Steve Railsback, Carlton Wilborn, Vanessa Angel, Jamie Harris, David O’Donnell. Director: Louis Morneau.

MADE MEN Belushi

   I found James Belushiís performance in this fine shoot-em-up comedy crime caper to be a work of art, and Iím not kidding. Rated R for good reason (language and flying bullets), I enjoyed every minute of it. (Well, not every minute, but you have to allow me a small bit of exaggeration in the first paragraph of a review, donít you?)

   Belushi plays Bill ďThe MouthĒ Mannuci, a guy on the run from the mob, and heís not the only reason the mobís after him. He took a stash of 12 million dollars with him.

   Iím not sure where the small country town is that heís holed up in, along with Debra, his ultra-shapely girl friend (Vanessa Angel), but it might be Iowa (lots of corn), Oklahoma (crooked small-town sheriff, played by Timothy Dalton), or Michigan (hidden meth labs way out in the sticks), but it probably doesnít matter. Iím sure you have the idea already.

   It is the kind of country where blacks (including Michael Beach as Miles, one of the more intelligent mobsters after him) stick out like sore thumbs and have to mind their manners every step of the way.

MADE MEN Dalton

   One wishes that Vanessa Angel might have had more screen time, but Timothy Dalton in his more immediate post-Bond days is a revelation of his own, playing against type, you might say, in more ways I might have thought possible.

   But James Belushi plays his part to perfection: a crook, a liar, a thief, and a guy possessed with a natural gift of gab, talking away incessantly, possessing the mouth of a pure-born salesman, selling his various stories to anyone who would believe him along the way. Including me. He sure had me leaning the wrong way more than once.

   In any case, a combination of better-than-average dialogue and production values with a minimum of actual bloodshed (in comparison with all of the shooting) makes this movie the top half of a drive-in double feature by far, not the bottom. If there were drive-in theaters any more.

   I miss them.