If ‘inspired by a true story’ is taking one fact and making heaps of shit up around it then this review is ‘inspired by a true story’, in as much as I watched a film called Middle Men a few days ago and felt inspired enough to write about it.
Two alcoholic, drug abusing, going nowhere porn-addicts have a moment of clarity and decide the time has come that people… ok guys… need to pay for their online porn. At $9.99 a tissue, I mean subscription.
But even though the pair Wayne (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck (Gabriel Macht) are perhaps smart enough to come up with this one Eureka! moment they are not very business savvy and are equally inept at selecting the most appropriate business partners, which explains why shortly after coming up with the idea they find themselves inextricably linked with the Russian Mob.
In truth the early goings on of the film – not just the inept buddies – is all over the shop. With quick cuts, flash forwards and flashbacks it is extremely hard to keep track.
Enter Jack Harris (Luke Wilson). Jack is a cool, calm and collected master of logic, skilled at negotiation and blessed with business acumen. He is also a family man with three kids and a pleasant wife who initially wants zero part in helping two dumb shits make their porn-related venture more profitable…
Until his logic once again kicks in and Jack realises just how much money there is to be made, he figures he’ll stick around for a few years, get rich and retire to the lap of luxury with his family and morals intact.
Wayne and Buck are high school buddies and initially are in deep enough trouble that they welcome Jack’s assistance. Jack comes up with a plan to remove all extraneous and potentially dangerous personnel, reducing the number of paws reaching for profit.
This means buying out the man who facilitated Jack’s involvement, a seedy lawyer named Jerry Haggerty (James Caan), and the Russian Mob themselves. All sounds pretty nifty in theory.
Unfortunately this is where I think the ‘inspired by’ kicks in. The payoff with the Russian mob goes desperately awry, dragging Jack further and deeper into the biz than he ever planned.
As everyone knows the business of porn thrived on the internet though, and the business rakes in cash hand over fist. While Jack never really bonded with his business associates and Wayne and Buck never become business super-geniuses they did all enjoy the benefits of the trade. Money flows freely for all and they all indulge to varying degrees with the lifestyle that one might assume goes on with the high end of the porn game. After a while though Wayne and Buck start to resent Jack’s mastery over all, and start looking at ways that they can cut side deals and sweeten the situation for themselves. (I understand too, once Jack moves in the last 90% of the film revolves entirely around him.)
As they must in film further complications arise when Jack’s wife twigs to his involvement, a young up and coming (pardon the pun) starlet moves into his radar and the FBI start scrutinising the business affairs. (There are even terrorists!) All the while Jack holds onto his own terrible secret and the Russians and the lawyer Jerry Haggerty work out how they can move in and get their own cut of the profits.
Middle Men was an awesome red-band trailer a year or so ago. What red-blooded male is not going to be interested in a film that seriously deals with the porn industry’s development – but at the same time isn’t porn… Your Honour? With a near guarantee of nubile skin and the debauchery that goes along, Middle Men should have been a blank cheque for your mind to go to town guilt free, after all it is a drama… Honey? But while the boobies and bare ass are plentiful and all over the screen the interest just isn’t, and all the cleavage-cam (and there is a lot) can’t save that.
Middle Men was made in 2009 and the red-band trailer I referred to came out early last year. For some reason they shelved the film for a while, no idea why but perhaps it was because they realised that it just isn’t that good.
Oh and as far as the concept of Luke Wilson as a master negotiating business tactician? Not so much…
Final Rating – 6 / 10. Before anyone questions my hetero-ness I might point out that apparently the internet still has the capability of sourcing near-nude photos and video of real women, I just wouldn’t have to sit through a boring two hour film to get to them.