Middle Men (2010)
Dir: George Gallo
Stars: Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel Macht, Laura Ramsey (see Note 1), James Caan and Kevin Pollock
This film may not be for you if A) you don’t like stories that spiral out of control or B) you have no interest in knowing about how online adult entertainment came to be so accessible. What drew me to this film was its bizzarre marketing campaign, its preview and its diverse casting. In the end, I was rather entertained, surprised, interested – particularly in the Russian criminal element – and more than a little appalled by its subject matter – I mean it! I think the reason I’m recommending it so highly is that it thoroughly communicates its theme, “Money doesn’t buy everything”, and does it against a time & place that only “insiders” have access to.
The story starts with a couple of knuckleheads played by Ribisi and Macht: Ribisi’s character is Wayne Beering, who when we meet him is smoking cigarette after cigarette and doing lines of coke. So, clearly an upstanding citizen. His knucklehead partner is Buck Dolby, a genius who got fired from working at NASA because he was coming in on weekends to ride the wind machine (the one that fires a bunch of air out of the floor at you to the point you can float). And apparently, it’s these two that had the idea to put adult photos and videos online and charge a fee for them: not sure how much of it is true, and to me, it’s irrelevant. What I mean is, these two characters fit this story, and the scene which shows them starting to make money online made me feel – dare I say it – kinda patriotic in a tarnished and disappointed way.
The story from here involves a patched quilt of characters, most of them seedy and downright dangerous. They range from filthy lawyers to mob assassins, from FBI counter-terrorism agents to entrepreneurial fathers who never thought they’d be “working in porn”. Frankly, I don’t want to give too much of this title away in case you do decide to catch it. The storyline took me places I didn’t expect and kept me guessing. While I could’ve done with much less voice-over in the film, I had very few complaints.
And once again, my interest in a huge cast pays off! I mean, not only do you get to see Kevin Pollock doing his thing, you get a scene or two with Kelsey Grammer, the always fun Rade Serbedzija (from The Saint, Snatch and any other film requiring an authentic Russian gangster) and even Robert Forester… Middle Men was a pleasant surprise for an intense drama: dare I say it reminded me of Social Network?
Note 1: I’m just saying that I think Laura Ramsey is one talented actress and that she’s headed for greatness. Earlier in the week, I saw her in a small role in Kill the Irishman, and I really thought I remembered her from elsewhere, too – sure enough, she had a small but important role in Mad Men one season! Anyhow, hopefully you read the prediction regarding Miss Ramsey here first…