‘Middle Men’ Worth a Look for Luke Wilson Fans

Thursday, August 12, 2010
By Kevin Crossman

Luke Wilson

Luke Wilson

Middle Men is a well-intentioned attempt at an quirky crime drama about the early days of selling pornography on the internet. In many ways, the model for the film is Boogie Nights, not just because of the obvious sex-industry tie-ins, but because the story occurs over a period of years and the central character is played straight with lunacy surrounding him.

Front and center for Middle Men is Luke Wilson, a family man from Houston with a penchant for solving problems. ¬†Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht play Wayne and Buck, two drug addled low-life’s who leverage Buck’s talent with computer programming to bring to life Wayne’s vision of getting rich from selling porn on the internet. Unfortunately, these two clueless losers get in bed with L.A.’s Russian mafia and when they neglect their business while on a bender in Vegas, Wilson’s character Jack Harris is called in by sleazy lawyer played by James Caan to fix the business. And fixing the business is what Harris does well, though his marriage suffers as a consequence. As you might imagine, the situation spirals out of control as drugs, porn stars, accidental murders, and money all cause a rift between Harris and his two “entrepreneur” partners Wayne and Buck.

It’s nice to see writer-director George Gallo’s ambitions on screen. Wilson is especially well-cast as “the middle man” with sharp wits, Texas charm, and just enough danger to make his role believable. And make no mistake, Wilson is this film’s centerpiece and his character is based on the experiences of producer Christopher Mallick. As with Tenure earlier this year, Wilson holds his end of the bargain up quite well.

As for the rest of the movie, it’s an up and down affair. Some of the supporting players do a good job, especially Kevin Pollack as an FBI agent and Kelsey Grammer in a cameo as a Texas politician. Others, such as Ribisi and the female leads played by Laura Ramsey (an LA porn star) and Jacinda Barrett (as Harris’ wife) are one-notes not well played. There are a number of holes in the script that aren’t addressed, despite a very heavy use of narration from Harris’ character throughout the film. For example, why does Harris’ wife stay in Texas even though he has been working in LA for the better part of a decade? It’s not made clear.

Though things tie up a bit too tidy at the end, Middle Men is worth a look if you’re a fan of Wilson or the genre or subject matter.

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