If it's crap ... We'll tell you
In 1995, Wayne Beering (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck Dolby (Gabriel Macht) strike oil on the World Wide Web and start a subscription porn site. Originally a collection of scanned pictures from magazines, Wayne and Buck soon expand and begin producing original material. They make a simple deal with Russian mobsters who own a local strip club, providing girls and a location for filming, and earning an estimated 25 percent a month. Before Wayne and Buck know what s happening, money is flying in. All might have been good and well – if only they’d honored their deal.
After failing to get the Russian's their first cut of the profits , Wayne and Buck are paid a visit by their “business partner”. A few fists to the skull and several death threats later: Houston businessman, Jack Harris (Luke Wilson), receives a call for help from Wayne and Buck’s lawyer, Jerry Haggerty (played by James Caan). Adept at solving problems of this nature, Harris agrees to help, soon realizing the money-making potential Wayne and Buck have built.
Jack manages to get Wayne and Buck out of trouble and together they build the model we all know and use today for web-based billing. The innovation makes them rich and powerful almost overnight… but success comes with a price and fate comes collecting when you least expect it.
What you have in Middle Men is a solid, entertaining, and thrilling tale that in my estimation ranks up there with Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Ted Demme’s Blow as one of Hollywood’s best “rise to power” films. This is a conclusion that couldn’t possibly surprise you more than it does me, considering that George Gallo, the director, is credited for writing Bad Boys and Code Name: The Cleaner. I must admit I liked Bad Boys quite a bit, though the characters of Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett weren’t terribly compelling or fleshed out in significant detail. Gallo definitely upped his game when crafting the script for this film. (For those of you that must know what I thought of Code Name: The Cleaner – it was a steaming pile .
I’ve consistently appreciated Luke Wilson’s work. He’s a fine actor, seeming to approach roles with an honesty and sweetness that endears the audience. But, no matter how sweet, he hasn’t yet - in my opinion, - reached the level of popularity enjoyed by his brother Owen. This is, in no small part, due to the roles he chooses. Usually playing the charming and harmless romantic lead, I think Luke has finally found what might be his “break out” role in Jack Harris. Sure, Jack is a good man who loves his family and does his level best to stay out of trouble, but Wilson adds darkness to Jack. More depth than we’ve seen from him in the past, and a sense that there’s something dangerous about him, should he find himself caught with his back against the wall.
From my perspective, the entire cast holds their own with performances peppered with inspired moments of brilliance. The only criticism I offer is aimed at Australian born Jacinda Barrett who plays the role of Diana Harris (Jack’s wife). Ms. Barrett is a wonderful talent but her Southern accent could use a bit of work. Every once in a while, “Houston” faded away and you could hear “Brisbane,” or “Queensland” creep out. Very small and nitpicky, in the grand scheme of things, but present nonetheless.
While it isn’t a visual feast like Toy Story 3 or Inception, Middle Men stands tall as one of the few movies you must see in 2010.