If it's crap ... We'll tell you
With so many of last year's high profile. “For Your Consideration” movies being slightly humorous dramas base on/inspired by true stories (The Social Network, The King’s Speech, Casino Jack, 127 Hours, The Fighter, I Love You Philip Morris, *whew* etc.) it’s easy to see how a movie like Middle Men slipped through the cracks. If it were my job to pitch it you in a way that might make you Netflix it over one of the other Oscar-buzzed movies already on home video I would break it down to you as simply as this:
...well, more or less.
Back in 1995 when the world wide web was a newfound discovery, businessman Jack Harris (Luke Wilson) had the perfect life - a beautiful family and a successful career as a 'Mr. Fixit' for problem companies. Then he met Wayne Beering (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck Dolby (Gabriel Macht), two genius cocaine addicts, who invented the way pornography is sold over the internet and before long the trio strats making $200,000 dollars a day! Not too long after Jack finds himself in the middle of a whirlwind filled with starlets, con men, Russian mobsters, federal agents, and international terrorists. When a young porn star begins muscling Jack from one side and the FBI starts asking questions on the other it all becomes an inescapable trap that threatens to break up his family and destroy his livelihood.
Like most of the movies that ended up on my ‘Best of 2010’ list, Middlemen is full of surprises, the first being its script. While it’s not quite as quick-witted as Aaron Sorkin’s for The Social Network, Middle Men moves at a good pace with every line of clever dialogue followed by another one. In a time where so many movies want to be about sex and violence but don’t really have the guts to follow through with it, the writing on Middle Men has an edge that keeps it exciting throughout all the laughs.
Another big surprise is Luke Wilson, who (finally!) lives up to his potential as a leading man, which we haven’t really seen since Bottle Rocket. He brings humility and likability to a ‘smartest-guy-in-the-room’ character that makes you identify with Jack Harris’ succumbing to the chaos surrounding him and root for him to get out of it.
As well, the usual annoyance factor of Gionvanni Ribisi (along with Gabriel Macht) is used to great comic effect as the two moron-savant programmers. Both actors work perfectly together as two guys who wouldn’t have made the grade as members of the Jackass crew, otherwise. Middle Men is also backed up good performances in smaller roles and cameos by James Caan, Kevin Pollack, Terry Crews and Kelsey Grammer.
The extra features here are slight. As if they were thrown together begrudgingly at the last minute:
· Audio Commentary: from Director George Gallo, Editor Malcolm Campbell, and Cinematographer Lukas.
· Deleted Scenes: And only three of those! "Young Jack", "Now You're Out", and "So I Guess This is Divorce?"
· Slap Montage: Various slapping scenes edited together. Ugh.
Conspicuously absent is a deleted scene I'd read about of a continuous tracking shot, the kind that’s become so synonymous with Goodfellas that it’s easy to see why it would’ve seemed like a good ideato film…and why they might’ve later decided not to setup such a painfully blatant comparison.
Middle Men is one my favorite types of stories. It’s about a smart guy who stumbles into a dire situation and has to think (not shoot) his way out of it- although, considering that the real guy it’s based on was one of the film’s producers, the part about him being a ‘guy man who had a momentary lapse in judgment’ is probably the most fictional. Either way it’s an tale full of twists and turns with good, if not great execution. While it wasn’t quite good enough to make it to my TOP 10 list of favorite movies of 2010, it is comfortably in my TOP 20.
You can purchase Middle Men on blu-ray here.