If Middle Men was a great movie, it would have been based in chaos. Loud, raunchy, edgy, and sometimes horrific chaos, all brought down to earth by a stable and impressive Luke Wilson character. Even if it had tried to be a low-budget B-movie, Middle Men could have worked. Instead, Middle Men is like a sinewy, confident long-jump athlete who has pushed into a territory that he or she is just not good enough to compete in. As a moderately budgeted film that tries to be artsy, Middle Men is little more than gratuitous. You may love the goddamn long jump, but that doesn’t mean you’re an Olympic athlete.
Middle Men is directed by George Gallo, and his direction is generally not what causes the movie to be so subpar. Throughout the film, Gallo goes out of his way to try interesting cut-to shots and to keep the linear story fresh. For that matter, the ultimate bleh-ness of this product is also not the fault of the actors. Giovanni Ribisi makes for a great crazy man, Laura Ramsey makes for a lustrous porn star, and Luke Wilson is still the John Cusack of all the non-A-list players. Even the Russian mob leader (Rade Serbedzija) and FBI leader Curt Allmans (Kevin Pollack) are serviceable. We are going to have to blame Gallo, along with fellow writer Andy Weiss, for the conflicted narrative, entirely spoken by Luke Wilson in a dry dialogue with titties unfortunately dispersed.
The story could have made for a true R-rated flick. It could have been more entertaining than The Hangover, and more of a whirlwind than Blow. I’ll tell you the story and maybe you’ll understand what I mean. Jack Harris, played by Luke Wilson, is a family man with one talent: he’s good at getting people what they want, and taking a cut of the pie. He’s a middle man. So, when he gets wind of a computer code a couple of brilliant clowns have created to take credit card numbers on the Internet, Harris naturally embroils himself. Unfortunately, the brilliant clowns are working in the wacky and wild early Internet porn industry, and they’ve already made friends with the Russian mob. Somehow, Harris has to stay one step ahead of the drama in order to beat this system. Or at least make a whole lotta money.
This sounds like a wild ride, but it tends more toward a lengthy one, lacking in adequate ups and downs, and missing all the tense moments necessary to build up interest. This stems back to Luke Wilson speaking the entire narrative. Because of this, the script lacks a cohesive flow, and we find ourselves not caring about any character. Harris can’t exactly stick it to a bad guy that no one gives a rat’s ass about. He also can’t be a family man when we only know like three facts about his family. A first-person narrative can be effective if done properly, but if a first-person narrative gets away from the narrator, it will sprawl. There’s a reason The Catcher in the Rye isn’t an ensemble cast. Holden is the show, and that’s the way it is supposed to be. Middle Men wants seven or eight people to matter, but we don’t really hear from them, and so they only serve to dilute Jack Harris.
These issues could all be saved, if Middle Men had thrown script caution to the wind and decided to be a glorious B-movie. However, it can’t even seem to get the boobs and foul language thing right. Getting an R rating means you get a certain number of F-bombs and a certain amount of nakedness. I get it. You have a script that’s somewhat better than terrible, you’re not going to want to make Snakes on a Plane. Still, shame on you, there is never any reason to blow your whole wad on two or three rampant sex and tit scenes. Because then, when you need a pair of breasts for an intense and important cut-to shot of a famous porn star, she’s going to have to be clothed. When your protagonist has a gun pasted to his forehead, there won’t be any room for a rousing “Fuck you.” It’s wasteful.
For a movie about a man who knew where he was going and how to get there, Middle Men plays out like quite the opposite. In its best moments, it’s halfway as good as Lord of War. In its worst moments, it plays out as quickly as Jumper, but with less finesse. Middle Men isn’t entirely wasteful, but it isn’t really worth your time either.
The big attraction on the disc is its commentary, but it’s only a pro because it explains why certain decisions were made. At one point they discuss how they made some mistakes in filmmaking, but the editor was good enough to make their cons look like pros. It just seems like the creators of Middle Men pieced together a lot of other people’s ideas to make one middling film. If you really liked the movie, I wouldn’t suggest watching the commentary. It might make you think twice about how much work was actually put in.
Other than the commentary, the disc features deleted scenes, outtakes, and a “slap montage” featurette. As far as the deleted scenes go, it was easy to see exactly why they were deleted. Although, one of the deleted scenes went a long way to give Jack Harris’ wife, Diana (Jacinda Barrett), some performance credit. In the film, she is rather lackluster, but for a moment in the deleted scenes, she shines. Unlike the outtakes and the featurette, which are dull and a waste of time.
The packaging for the Blu-Ray is simple, as are the features. The best idea by far on the disc is the silhouette of a woman adorning the cover art and the menu page. It might be the best use of breasts in the whole film. There’s just enough showing to pique an audience’s interest.