Starring: Luke Wilson, James Caan,
Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel
Macht, Jacinda Barrett, Laura
Ramsey, Terry Crews, Rade
Sherbedgia, Kevin Pollack, and
Runtime: 105 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Vantage/Paramount
Director: George Gallo
Executive Producer: hrenic Content **
Producer: Christopher Mallick, William
Sherak, Jason Shuman, and
Writer: George Gallo and Andy Weiss
Address Comments To:Sumner Redstone, Chairman/CEO, Viacom
Nick Meyer, President, Paramount Vantage
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone: (323) 956-5000; Fax: (323) 862-1212
Website: www.paramountvantage.com; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarcastically narrated by the movie’s main protagonist, played by Luke Wilson, and inspired by a true story from the life of Producer Christopher Mallick, MIDDLE MEN opens with Jack Harris of Houston describing his happy marriage with his wife, which produces two well-adjusted children. Jack has a knack for putting business deals together, especially when it comes to smoothing out problems.
The real story begins in 1997 when a friend in Los Angeles asks Jack to come there and take over the fancy singles bar and nightclub he’s just started but can no longer run. At the same time, two strung-out friends in L.A., one of them a former NASA astronaut, hit upon a scheme to sell Internet pornography using credit cards. Apparently, no one has yet started to run any kind of Internet business using credit cards, much less one involving pornography. So, Buck writes the prototype for all Internet credit card billing systems so that he and his neurotic friend, Wayne, operate a website with pornography.
Jack sarcastically narrates that this business idea is one of the hottest ideas of all time because men are always thinking about sex. To back up Jack’s comments, a crude montage shows a series of young and older males abusing themselves while looking at pictures of naked women.
Naturally, says Jack, Buck and Wayne’s new business model takes off like gangbusters. Then, however, Buck decides they need to improve the photos they have on their website. So, he and Wayne visit a strip club to ask the owner if they can take some photos of the nude girls.
Four weeks later, Buck and Wayne have made a cool million bucks, or $250,000 a week. In celebration, however, Buck and Wayne go to Las Vegas for sex, gambling and drugs and forget to give the Russian mobster his cut.
In comes sleazy lawyer Jerry Haggerty, played by the talented James Caan. Haggerty convinces Jack to act as a go-between for Buck and Wayne so that the Internet porn website can continue. Jack starts to smooth things over between them and the mobster, but he suggests to Buck and Wayne that, instead of running any porn websites, they should just be the ones providing the Internet billing service for the pornographers.
The mobster, of course, still wants his cut from the first four weeks. He sets up a rendezvous with his thuggish nephew, Ivan, but during the meeting, Jack’s other friend and bodyguard punches Ivan, Ivan has a fatal brain hemorrhage, and Jack, Buck, Wayne, and Jack’s friend dump Ivan’s body in the ocean. To cover their tracks, they suggest that Ivan took the money and disappeared on his own, implying he stole it. The mobster is suspicious, so he forces Jack to make him a silent partner in the billing company. Now, Jack is committed to staying in this sleazy business, although he really only wanted to make enough money for one year to set up his family for life.
Six and seven years later, business is booming for everybody, but Jack has grown estranged from his family because he’s the only one who knows how to make the business run smoothly. So, the frequent business trips to L.A. and Vegas mean Jack seldom gets to see his wife and children.
Then, after getting into more and more arguments with his wife about what he does, Jack gets interested in a 23-year-old porn star with her own website. They begin an affair.
Making matters worse, the sleazy lawyer Haggerty returns. He’s also suspicious about what happened to Ivan. And, he seduces Buck and Wayne to make a side business deal with another, even more sleazy guy. Unknown to them, he connects their business to a pedophile site of underage girls.
Eventually, of course, the truth about Ivan comes out. And, Jack becomes stuck between Haggerty, the Russian mobster and the FBI. Suddenly, the idea of becoming filthy rich off Internet pornography doesn’t look so good, especially in contrast to Jack’s quiet, but fulfilling, former life with his wife and children.
This last message leads to a wonderful and positive, even touching, ending. It gives the movie, which has an excellent script with fine acting and an energetic pace, a positive moral premise. Regrettably, MIDDLE MEN, especially the first half or so, makes a sarcastic politically correct joke about the sexual lust of males and middle-class hypocrisy. It also contains an extreme amount of foul language, sex and nudity, along with overt drug references. This mixture is clearly excessive and rather gratuitous, even considering the sleazy topic – how the Internet pornography business became a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
Much more, of course, can be said about this topic. MOVIEGUIDE® refers readers to the work of Dr. Judith Reisman and other media-wise scholars and groups, including other articles and editorials from MOVIEGUIDE®, that have exposed the dangers of all kinds of pornography, including Internet porn.
MIDDLE MEN has a happy, even touching, ending where Jack realizes that marriage and family, and everyday joys they bring, are best. Regrettably, MIDDLE MEN, especially the first half or so, makes a sarcastic politically correct joke about the sexual lust of males and middle-class hypocrisy. The movie also contains a incredibly extreme mixture of foul language, sex, nudity, and overt drug references.