Middle Men Movie Review
Sex. Porn. Gangsters. Murder. The Internet. Credit card processing. Allegedly based on a true story, Middle Men, which stars Luke Wilson as an innovative business man who helps jumpstart the online porn industry in the 1990's, is a surprisingly entertaining little film, albeit not very groundbreaking.
In Middle Men, two losers (played by Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht) invent an online credit card processing system to make a few bucks off some cheap pornography. The few bucks turn into millions of dollars. To finance their operation, however, they get involved with the Russian mob. Things quickly spiral out of control.
Wilson turns in a strong performance as the levelheaded Jack Harris, who gets caught between a rock and a hard place. He loves making money, but after an accidental murder realizes he's trapped with his two idiotic business partners out of fear they'll say something that will send him to prison. He's all too right, but for all the wrong reasons.
Wilson has always lived in his brother's shadow despite turning in several effective performances throughout the years; Middle Men brings out the best in the actor. Wilson's never going to be a gritty actor, but he's the right choice for this half-gritty/half-comedic tale.
The production is engaging from beginning to end, thanks primarily to director and co-writer George Gallo. I've heard critics call Middle Men the poor man's Tarantino - or even Scorsese - and while I can see what they mean, Gallo could definitely be associated with worse names. He's by no means in the same league as either of those famed directors, but with Middle Men he's assembled a fast-paced, flashy and kinetic picture that looks great and consistently entertains.
What the movie does lack, however, is an emotional core. Gallo is so focused on plot and his characters he forgets to give them something to fight for. When things go bad, there's no gut wrenching moment or pivotal sequence where you suddenly realize the lead character has no easy way out. Middle Men just moves along, showing what's happening to the characters without letting the audience experience it.
Middle Men is a good but not great movie. As far as crime dramas go, it's middle of the road - but that's not a bad thing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.