Middle Men was released to very little promotion last year, but gave audiences a lot more than they had expected. I, too, was pleasantly surprised by what the film had to offer. There’s a hell of a lot going on, but it’s held together by strong performances.
The film deals with the first guys to charge for pornography on the Internet. Wayne Beering (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck Dolby (Gabriel Macht) are messed up geniuses with too many ideas than they know what to do with. After trying out their idea of charging for their pornographic images on the Internet, they realise it’s more popular than they could have dreamed. It’s also more than they can handle, and with the first signs of big money, they’re already in big trouble.
Straight-laced business man, Jack Harris (Luke Wilson), is known for his middle man skills and can organise any shambolic idea and sort out its problems. He’s hired to help the guys make their idea a fully legitimate business. Unfortunately for Jack, along with the new venture comes greed, crime and women. Lots of women. The family man is lured into the underbelly of LA, and things begin to spiral out of control.
The big hook to this film is that it’s based on real events. Christopher Mallick, whom Luke Wilson’s character is based on, said eighty percent of the film is real with the other twenty percent made up. That’s a big hefty chunk of real, yet it all seems so fantastical. There’s lots going on (crime, sex, drugs and murder) and it’s a lot to take in. In the wrong hands it could have come off as cheesy and overblown, but director George Gallo has found the balance for it to work.
The lead performance by Luke Wilson is a good fit. At first he’s the devoted husband who will do anything for his family, but he soon gets accustomed to the life of luxury his work brings him. He’s misguided, so not unlovable. It’s easy to connect with him, and we can follow him believably as his character evolves.
The two other performances I really loved were by Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht, the two idea men of the film. They brought a real sense of humour to the whole thing. Their inability to form a decent plan and the trouble they find themselves in is quite ridiculous. They get involved with Russian mafia and seemingly have little knowledge of the crime underworld, as they refer to getting “cracked” instead of “whacked”. It’s a fine piece of casting.
The film only lets itself down by being a little bit too long and having a clunky script that doesn’t have a smooth flow to it. But that aside, this is a great little film documenting a blossoming era of the 90s.
It may not be a film that completely blows you away, but it’s definitely worth the time. It’s better for home viewing, and I think will do quite well on this format as opposed to its theatrical release.
There are a few extras on the disc to hold your attention. There’s a commentary with the director, outtakes, deleted scenes and a rather amusing slap montage. Yes, a montage of the slaps used in the feature, which turns out to be a rather surprising amount, really.