This review of was commissioned by its writer-director-producer-editor, Drew Hanks. The Made Man’s trailer can be accessed here: https://youtu.be/rPH9HbveDRk – J.R.
One striking trait shared by the United States and the Catholic Church is a taste for symbolism that overtakes material reality. The same mentality that converts wine into blood can also turn racial differences into graphic abstractions that replace facts so that pinkish brown individuals are called “white” and slightly darker brown individuals can be called “black”.
One of the more eloquent descriptions of this taste for metaphysics over material reality comes from Mary McCarthy, a lapsed Catholic and an American, who argues in her 1947 essay “America the Beautiful: The Humanist in the Bathtub” that “the virtue of American civilization is that it is unmaterialistic”:
“It is true that America produces and consumes more cars, soap, and bathtubs than any other nation, but we live among these objects rather than by them….When an American heiress wants to buy a man, she at once crosses the Atlantic. The only really materialistic people I have ever met have been Europeans….The strongest argument for the unmaterialistic character of American life is the fact that we tolerate conditions that are, from a materialistic point of view, intolerable.”
What bearing, one may ask, has this to do with Drew Hanks’ minimalist black and white comedy The Made Man, all of whose characters are actual or prospective members of the Mafia? I would contend that its comedy derives from the difficulty of its hit-man protagonist Jovanni (Eliot) to accept the rules of his induction into the clan, which require him to obey the request of his godfather (Roy Allen) to give him a “handjob”, knowing that he’ll be killed if he refuses.
What makes this difficulty comic enough to carry a feature is the discrepancy between a demand for alienated sex activity (physical) and Jovanni’s protected and fragile sense of his own heterosexual masculinity (metaphysical). I suspect that this way of articulating the comic theme may differ somewhat from Hanks’ own view of his feature. Based on his audio commentary on the film’s Blu-Ray, he seems to be more interested in movie genres than in gender, so that my own enjoyment of the implied ironic pun of the movie’s title, which sounds like The Maid Man, registers as a sort of comment on the absence of women in his cast. Similarly, his employment of Conrad Hunziker’s attractive black and white cinematography, which I perceive as another form of metaphysical symbolism, may have been motivated by a desire to evoke film noir. But Hanks’ understandable concern for “professional” (i.e., Hollywood) credentials, which this movie also displays in its very competent cast, also suggests a species of filmed theater in which lengthy takes figure as a form of respect for ensemble acting and the power of extended scenes.
Is The Made Man longer than it has to be? This depends in part on commercial considerations, with Jovanni’s desire to join the Mafia community matching Hanks’ desire to join the Hollywood community.