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SWINGERS
Collector's Series

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Alex Desert, Heather Graham
Director: Doug Liman
Audio: Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Miramax
Features: See Review
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: September 24, 2002

“You’re so money, and you don’t even know it!”

Film ****

The year was 1996, a year in which A LOT of independent films had broken through the fog and gotten responses from a big mainstream audiences, thanks to strong word of mouth from numerous film critics. Such films included Fargo and Sling Blade, but of all the small films to have breakout successes, the one independent movie that knocked me to the floor with both amazement and nonstop laughter was Swingers. Made for an astonishingly low budget of just $250,000, a budget unheard of since the days of John Cassavettes, it was the pet project of writer/actor Jon Favreau, who based the script on real life experiences he and his fellow co-stars had in the dating world.  For Favreau and his co-star Vince Vaughn, this was a big moment considering that they were unknown actors at the time. Prior to this film, the only noticeable credit the two shared were supporting parts in the 1993 football drama Rudy. It is the uniquely funny and strong performances from Favreau and Vaughn that helps make Swingers one of the best comedies of the 90s.

Set in modern-day L.A., the movie centers on a group of guys struggling to make it in the entertainment industry. They also like to think of themselves as kings of the dating scene. Mike Peters (Favreau) is an aspiring stand up comedian, a dream that forced him to leave his home town of New York, as well as his college sweetheart which he still regrets very much. Mike’s best friend, Trent (Vaughn), is constantly nagging Mike to go with him to various parties, hoping that he will eventually hook up with the right girl to help him forget about the one he left behind. If Mike isn’t looking for work, he is always confined to his half-furnished apartment, which is also why Trent pleads him to go with him.

The movie opens with Trent and Mike engaging in much funny night of encounters and surprises in Vegas, BABY, Vegas. They dress like a couple of high rollers, and they roam around the casino floors not so much looking for the perfect game to play, but the right woman to pick up, or as they call them, beautiful babies. Mike is frequently embarrassed by Trent’s sometimes outrageous antics, though Trent insists they help in catching a certain honey’s eye. They eventually end up at a trailer with a cocktail waitress they met, along with a beautiful baby friend. Trent achieves his master plan, but Mike can’t seem to do anything with his companion but talk about his ex.

Back in L.A., Trent, Mike, and their close knit group of friends, all of whom are also awaiting call backs, go on nightly pursuits through numerous clubs, the cool hidden clubs to be more precise, and various parties in the Hollywood hills. One such party is one that is paraded with models, but none too much appealing to the guys. A memorable moment is when Trent approaches a woman he hopes to win, but once she engages in conversation, he wants away from her in a second. The theme from Jaws is wonderfully inserted here, illustrating the terror Trent has found himself in.

That sums up the center plot of the movie, but what makes Swingers rich in quality is the dialogue and the superior knowledge it has of the singles scene. Favreau’s script is so insightful and frequent with razor sharp wit that so many comedies fail to include. There are some ingenious moments that have the guys discussing their favorite moments in movies like GoodFellas and Reservoir Dogs. After arguing that Tarantino borrows everything from Scorsese, the very next scene cheerfully spoofs the famous slow motion walk from the opening of Dogs. The very line that precedes this moment is “Everybody steals from everybody, that’s Hollywood”. The movie later throws in a homage to the ever-famous steady-cam restaurant sequence from GoodFellas, the very scene mentioned in the earlier segment.

Favreau and Vaughn returned to the screen last year in the wonderful crime comedy Made, which Favreau also directed, and the two have become one of the more enjoyable actor pairings in recent memory. If I had to pick a single favorite part of Swingers, it would have to be Vince Vaughn’s breakthrough performance as the fast talking, take-no-prisoners Trent. Vaughn injects doses of energy and remarkable timing resulting in, for me, one of the funniest characters ever created. What makes it more special is the notion that Trent resembles at least one friend we've all had at one point in our lives, the kind of person that doesn't care where you are, as he will still make it his mission to embarrass the living hell out of you. Vaughn, I'm sure, is very proud of this role, because it helped him get noticed by no less than Steven Spielberg, who cast Vaughn in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which helped him get noticed even more.

Directed with a smooth look by Doug Liman, who would go on to direct the hugely entertaining movies Go and The Bourne Identity, this gem of a movie is sharp, witty, and charming every step of the way. Swingers is indeed a film too cool for words, and it remains one of the absolute best comedies to come out in the last decade.

Video ***

The original DVD release of Swingers was released a few years back, when Disney delighted in not giving their releases the appropriate anamorphic touch. Now Miramax has re-issued the movie with an anamorphic offering, and the image transfer is a much superb improvement over the original. The picture is consistent and alive with colors and details, enlightening all of the offbeat places the characters find themselves in. Even the numerous dark nightclub sets, etc., look much better than they did on the original release. A little softness presents itself here and there, but they hardly distract.

Audio ***

Only a 2-channel surround track is supplied, but it does the movie justice. The film is hardly without some type of music, which is delivered along with dialogue in a sharp, impressive quality. As the sets in the film are crowded areas, like nightclubs and parties, etc., the surround quality shines in those scenes as well.

Features ****

Upon the release of the disc for Made, it was announced that a special edition release for this movie was in the works, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Miramax has created a must have loaded disc, that resembles the brilliance of the extras on the Made disc.

For starters, we have two commentary tracks; one with director Doug Liman and editor Stephen Mirrone, and one with stars Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, which is a truly killer listen. There is also an action commentary option from the two stars, which like the commentary track they did for Made, complete with specific drawings pointing out important specifics. Also included is a four-part documentary called "Making It In Hollywood", which covers everything from the writing process to the making of the movie to the effect the movie had on young culture. Also featured is the Cutting Room Floor, containing several alternate/deleted moments that didn't quite make the finished movie. There's even a short spoof trailer titled "Swing Blade", which you have to see to believe.

Not only did Miramax thankfully reapply some much-needed extras, but also they priced the disc at a much affordable price, which is under just $20. Now that's a deal that is so money, baby!

Summary:

Swingers is a sweet little film that I hold close to my heart as a guy and as a film lover. If you have never seen it before, you know what you need to do, and if you have, there's no reason not to go back and watch it again, baby!