R, 97min., 2010
Cast: Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribsi, Gabriel Macht, Rade Serbedzija, Laura Ramsey, Jacinda Barett, with Robert Forester and James Caan
Directed by George Gallo
Screenplay by George Gallo and Andy Weiss
Middle Men is too impatient to give us the epic about how the Internet porn empire was made and settles for cliché drama that is given some spark by a committed cast of actors.
More after the jump…
Told over a lax and long monologue by Luke Wilson, who stars as Jack Harris, an average Texas business and family man, who happens to get into credit card charging business during the late 1990s with two coked out LA geniuses named Buck Dolby and Wayne Beering (played by Gabriel Macht and Giovanni Ribsi with a lot more ticks and energy than the rest of the movie). The catch for Harris is the credit card business becomes the start up for the Internet porn empire.
The millions upon millions of dollars the trio is swamped by attracts many violent and colorful characters, including the Russian mob, a 23 year old porn star vixen, the FBI, and a vicious shark lawyer (James Caan in another performance to show how to be tough old school style). This all rushes by you at the drop of a hat, never settling for any real character driven moments.
Filmmaker George Gallo knows this genre of mixing drama with a nature comedic flare well – the best being his screenplay of Midnight Run from 1988. Here he never finds the right voice for this story, which keeps tossing the story back and forth between Wilson’s wheez family guy monologue and the violent cocaine gangster drama of Ribsi and Macht.
The idea is clearly to be a Martin Scorsese or P.T. Anderson time sprawling drama – several scenes are set to the music of The Rolling Stones, the LA setting, and amazing long shot takes. One sequence in particular has the camera following Harris through a porn palace orgy that feels lifted right out of Boogie Nights; it’s entertaining but we’ve seen it all before.
Somewhere in all of its dangerous wheels, deals, cocaine lines, and porn stars lies a good movie to be told in Middle Men, but it doesn’t surface here.