Middle Men is probably the best movie of 2010 that you didn’t see. I see a lot of films but somehow I never got around to seeing this one, until it hit Blu-Ray. It didn’t receive a wide release and wasn’t promoted or marketed heavily, but if you did get the chance to see this gem of a film, you’ll know that it was well worth the effort of trying to seek it out. Now that the film is on Blu-Ray and DVD I’m hoping a larger audience will gain access to it. By this point, you’re probably wondering what exactly is so good about this film that you’ve probably never heard of? Read on to find out.
Ever wonder how the online porn industry got started? Well wonder no further. No seriously, that’s the story told here. The true, although highly fictionized for cinema purposes, story behind the creation of the online porn industry. Wayne Beering (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck Dolby (Gabriel Macht) are two stoners who despite having high educations, aren’t doing anything with their lives. They’re trying to get rich but they don’t really have any direction or motivation to do so. Eventually they get the idea to upload ‘adult’ pictures onto the internet, something that hasn’t really been done before.
Furthermore, Dolby creates a program which is the first of it’s kind and a true revolution. His programs enables secure Internet credit-card transactions. For the first time ever people are now able to pay over the internet with their credit card. Wayne and Buck put the two ideas together and come up with internet porn. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can discreetly have instant access to a variety of porn and all they need is a valid credit card number. For obvious reasons, the idea takes off and within no time they are making incredible amounts of money. The problem is, despite their solid educational background, they have very little clue as to how to run a business.
This is where Houston businessman Jack Harris (Luke Wilson) gets involved. He is introduced to Wayne and Buck and sees the potential in their idea. He comes on board to manage the business side of things. While all goes well at first, pretty soon things turn sour. The inclusion of the Russian mob, a shady lawyer (James Caan) and FBI agents make things more complicated and pretty soon Jack, Wayne and Buck are in way over their heads.
Let’s start off by congratulating Mr. Luke Wilson for taking a role that for once doesn’t result in utter crap. Honestly, the guy hasn’t done anything really solid since Old School. With Middle Men though he steps up his game and proves that he can indeed lead a film, taking on his juiciest role yet. He’s generally a likeable actor and he embodies the character of Jack Harris quite well. He comes off as believable and paints Jack as a character we can invest in. His voice overs do happen a bit too often, explaining things we should actually be witnessing. But aside from that, I think he carried the film efficiently. Without him the film would have turned out a lot worse. Even at it’s low points, Wilson keeps the film from falling apart. Supporting actors are also pretty strong, despite some of them having to deal with underdeveloped characters.
Director George Gallo moves at such a rapid pace that some of the supporting characters rarely get a chance to be fully fleshed out despite the actors still giving their best effort. James Caan is always reliable and doesn’t fail here as the sleazy lawyer. It’s a role he knows well and one that he is immensely comfortable in. Throwing out sharp lines that provide much humor, Cann delivers another excellent performance. Macht and Ribisi are also great and despite overplaying the roles a bit and being dropped to the sidelines far too early, they still provide much entertainment, always keeping the energy high. Kevin Pollack gets the job done as the FBI agent and there’s even a superb Kelsey Grammar cameo to top things off. All the supporting characters amp up their performances and it makes this roller coaster ride of a film all the more fun.
And then we come to the directing. Poor George Gallo, everyone seems to be criticizing him for being too over ambitious with this film. And in reality, it may be true. He flashes back through time periods so frequently that trying to keep track of what year it is is futile. Gallo moves too quickly and attempting to keep up with him is tough. By trying to keep things interesting and stylish, he throws supporting characters to the sidelines far too soon, resulting in Jack Harris being the only fully fleshed out character.
The story starts off fine but as it goes on it does get to be a bit too ‘all over the place’. That being said, it’s always watchable and entertaining, even when delving into nonsense, like the terrorist subplot. One thing is for sure, there’s never a dull moment here. Taking cues from Scorsese and in particular Goodfellas, Gallo employs frantic camerawork, hyper editing and a whole bunch of style and razzle dazzle. I appreciate that he’s energetic and ambitious but perhaps he’s too energetic and ambitious?
To be honest, for all the antics Gallo pulls here, I still can safely say that I found the film thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, at times it gets a bit too giddy, jumpy, hyper, busy etc, but it’s never less than entertaining, and that says a lot for the film. Wilson’s performance mostly holds everything together and if you can look past the flaws, I think you’ll find an exciting and interesting film, despite being somewhat flawed. As I said before, it’s one of the best films of 2010 that you probably didn’t see. Gallo’s frenetic directing may put some people off but if you can look past it you’ll find a funny, fast paced, edgy and engaging film that will engulf you in the wild world of the adult entertainment industry.
Paramount provides the Blu-Ray transfer and they do a pretty good job with Gallo’s flashy and showy film. In short, the disc is a stunner. Bright and accurate colours make Gallo’s stylish direction even more appealing and extraordinary detail, especially in faces, is apparent throughout. Black levels could be deeper but that’s just a small complaint in an otherwise great image. Audio is also great, showcasing the hip soundtrack that accompanies the film. Atmospherics are passable and dialogue comes off as crisp, reproduced fairly well. There isn’t much surround or dynamic range but the film rarely calls for it. That being said, club and party scenes all sound fine and dialogue never gets muddled out.
The film didn’t exactly do wonders at the box office and due to this, we get ripped off with the special features.
- Audio Commentary: Director George Gallo, Editor Malcolm Campbell, and Cinematographer Lukas Ettlin
- Deleted Scenes
- Slap Montage
Nothing here really stands out. You can probably check out the commentary but nothing else is worth your time. The commentary, which is fairly enjoyable and lively, features Director George Gallo, Editor Malcolm Campbell, and Cinematographer Lukas Ettlin. The three filmmakers discuss the technical side of things. We hear about some of the special effects, some filmmaking techniques and some interesting facts about the production. There are a few dry spots but it’s not too bad overall.
Overall I’d label this one as a purchase. Gallo’s direction may not be for everyone but I still enjoyed the film, a lot. It’s a energetic and engaging film that rarely produces a dull spot. The story behind it although highly fictionalized, is still interesting and Luke Wilson gives us one of his best performances in ages. The film looks and sounds solid and despite the poor special features, I think this one deserves a spot in your collection.
Middle Men is a film that is always exciting, featuring a great performance from Luke Wilson as well as strong efforts from the supporting cast.