Sunday, May 4, 2014


Middle Men - 2009
Director: George Gallo
Starring: Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi

OK, I TRY to not start a movie with expectations already set. If they are, I try to cast them aside as best as I can. But…drama about the start of internet porn…you just can’t…clear your mind of that. It’s like trying to not set expectations for a McDonalds. Every cook is different, cashiers are people too and can be nicer in some parts of the…no…no…it just feels dirty to not instantly assume screaming and indigestion. So here comes Middle Men, with which all the trailers made you assume that it was a sexual romp with plenty of nudity, tasteless jokes, and possibly a lesser known Baldwin brother cameo appearance. Faaaaaaaantastic. Love you too, BackLOG.

Within the first five minutes, we see Jack Harris (Luke Wilson) loading millions into a bag saying “I bet you’re wondering how I got to the point where I’m driving this sack of money to Russian mobsters.” Because that’s why people willingly turned on this movie. Nope, “boobies.” Let’s just…keep thinking inside the DVD box here.

I will give this movie credit for doing an expert job of not being so pointlessly gratuitous that I thought the full title was “National Lampoon’s Middle Men.” In fact, it actually told a good story when it was focused on its story, despite all the times I wanted to say “yeah, I’m sure THAT happened.”

Ribisi channels the Keanu
Reeves's patented "uhhh...duhh..."
 face throughout the movie.
Though internet porn is the catalyst here, the actual achievement shown in the “based on a true story” Middle Men is the creation of e-commerce as seen through Jack, who in the real world is actually Richard Gordon (in case you wanted to look it up). Granted, the movie cares about the e-commerce revolution about as much as THOSE schoolgirls care about studying and its facts are (ummm…sex joke, sex joke, sex joke…ummm) not very tight (nailed it), but that’s fine. We’re not here for a history lesson.

The story goes, one day in some dingy apartment, two toked up losers having an argument about masturbating together come up with the idea to scan pictures from their dirty magazines and charge people to see them on the internet. One of them happens to a programmer (a fact that…I can’t not think is completely accurate for some horrible reason) and creates the code that became the standard for accepting credit cards over the internet (not…COMPLETELY untrue…). Having no clue how to run a business, their missteps get the attention of…other losers who get the attention of Jack Harris…a financial fixer-upper of sorts who, through some ingenuity of his own, turns this small time venture into the multi-billion dollar industry that we all know and…don’t…love…when nobody’s looking…

All things considered, I was rather impressed with this movie…which shouldn’t have happened. A majority of the plot was around Jack Harris’s attempts to turn this venture into a legitimate business despite being surrounded by…pretty much the worst people ever. The movie did a really good job with this and definitely made it har….difficult for Jack to get it off…the ground. Damn it. I was expecting a lot of horrible excuses to put nudity in the picture but there were times where I almost couldn’t help but think they were trying to figure out how to keep it out. It’s as if the filmmakers actually were interested in the story they were telling…and despite how ludicrous it seemed as a “true story,” as a story it was actually not a half bad watch.

Incredible shots like this happened often. I was very
impressed by the cinematography. It's like they cared.
The cast wasn’t half bad either, because Giovanni Ribisi, who played one of the toked up losers, actually makes a pretty good “creepy psycho” (see Perfect Stranger). Along with James Caan, Kevin Pollak, Rade Serbedzija (Boris the Bullet Dodger from Snatch if you don’t know), and Kelsey Grammar (yes, really), everyone’s level of lunacy and poor handling of something WAY over their heads actually made for an intriguing group that wasn’t particularly great at being funny, dramatic, sad, or obnoxious…but was just the right levels of everything for me to keep watching.
Would I recommend this movie to everyone? Well…maybe not if you want to stay in your relationship. It’ll probably be difficult to convince your girlfriend that wasn’t some softcore porn movie but…it wasn’t. Actually, there are plenty of better movies that take on the adult industry with seriousness and great drama (because I’ll get arguments for saying 8MM I’ll stick to a lesser known and absolutely incredible Indie film Mute Witness). I think the “based on a true story” part hurt this; granted I haven’t fact checked (I can’t help but see that as a slippery slope), there were a lot of parts of this film that were pretty damn ludicrous and someone as intelligent as Jack Harris could have avoided a lot of things if he just used that intelligence regularly (I mean, surely there was plenty of blood in his brain).

Somehow, SOMEHOW leaping over the “Asian contortionist-low” limbo bar that I set for this movie, Middle Man snags a solid 7 out of 10 from me. Will I watch it again? …No, probably not. I can’t think of a single reason I’ll say “I’m in the mood for this…” but then again, I somehow got in the mood for John Q. a few days ago so…lord only knows.

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