MIDDLE MEN—hold that money shot, Dirk: you’d think a movie about marketing porn would have seduced enough of a crowd to raise it higher than 206th place on the list of box-office contenders for the year, in this case 2009, when its $21,500,000 gamble on misery’s need for company only wanked forth a gross of $754,301.
“It should have been perfect, but somehow, they’d figure a way to screw it all up.”
Directed by George Gallo, who co-wrote the f-loaded script with Andy Weiss, it was based on the wheeling deals of Christopher Malick, one of the producers of the film. The mid 90s. Sharp problem solver ‘Jack Harris’ (Luke Wilson) takes charge of the operation of an Internet porn-distribution site created by tech-savvy but drug-addled jerks ‘Wayne Beering’ (Giovanni Ribisi) and ‘Buck Dolby’ (Gabriel Macht), who are in league with–and in the hole to—an ex-pat Russian mobster. The appetite for sex is endless, the women are intoxicating, the money is sky high. But there’s always a catch—or several.
“I’d become addicted to a lifestyle of money, sex, and power that was light years away from family… or anything I’d ever experienced. You see the biggest problem with my addiction, was that like all addictions, it sneaks up on you slowly; you give into it incrementally… in an almost imperceptible way. The other thing about it was that it wasn’t the kind of addiction that you would wake up with a hangover. It wasn’t the kind of thing that would rob you of your wealth. It didn’t rob you of your health. The more I indulged, the richer it would make me. I’ve got to tell you, that’s impossible to give up.“
The film trots along its un-merry way with requisite amounts of flashy nudity, sleazy characters and situational ethics. There’s too much droning narration from Wilson, and his performance otherwise is rather flat. Ribisi and Macht rev up the yuck factor as the greedy morons. Best work comes from James Caan as a slimy lawyer and Laura Ramsey as ‘Audrey Downs’, a blissfully nonchalant “performer”. Hardly surprising that the entwined industries of sin-selling and credit-billing are highways to the hot place, but lurid fascination for the whole thing is what drew me to watch and you to read this. Just make sure to delete your searches before you head off to church.
With Jacinda Barrett, Kevin Pollak, Rade Serbedzija (appropriately ominous as the hood with the strip club conduit),Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer (as a pious, corrupt politician), Robert Forster (amusingly matter-of-fact as a leg-breaker), Diane Sorrentino, Jesse Jane (hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere…?), and Graham McTavish. 105 minutes.
* The producers sued Paramount over how the film was–or rather, was not–distributed.
Christopher Malick: “Some of the events are made up, but some of them are based in a bit of truth and I think what we’ve been saying is that 80 percent of the film is pretty accurate. The 20 percent that’s not we want to leave that to the audience to figure out. We think its more fun that way rather then saying this is true this happened, this didn’t happen.”
Adding to the orgy of who-did-what-to-who around this project, Malick was accused of bilking millions from his customers at ePassporte in order to fund the film.