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Middle Men

  • Film
  • 2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

This highly fictionalized look at the Wild West early days of Internet porn is off-putting in almost every way, with sledgehammer stylistic flourishes (incessant shaky-cam; a Rolling Stones musical cue as ironic comment) and dialogue that sounds like it was written in a testosterone-fueled haze. Choicest cut: “I’m an anaphylactic polar bear with a bunny rabbit shoved up my ass.” It’s enough to make even the most tolerant viewer hightail it to the nearest exit. But at the center of the shitstorm, standing untouched and confident, is Luke Wilson, whose phenomenal performance as a family man undone by sexual and financial temptation is more than this movie deserves.

Wilson plays Jack Harris, a savvy suit called in by shady lawyer Jerry Haggerty (a slithery, bug-eyed Caan) to smooth out the X-rated start-up created by idiot geniuses Wayne (Ribisi) and Buck (Macht). The biggest problem? Those damn Russian mobsters who are financing the operation. The solution? Pay ’em off and go legit. Then blood is unexpectedly drawn, and Jack gets pulled in deeper than he ever planned to go.

Director George Gallo treats the character’s descent with fashionable disgust; there’s not a single, solitary moment when any of the raunchy sights—such as the strobe-lit orgy scored to Moby’s “Bodyrock” (clever!)—seem connected to any recognizable reality. It’s just pure feel-bad titillation. Yet Wilson, his face in a perpetual basset-hound droop, his forlorn eyes darting more apprehensively by the second, gives you a sense of every conflicted beat of Jack’s journey through hell and back. He’s as profoundly changed a man by the end as Ethan Edwards is in The Searchers; it’s a shame that he’s stuck in a sub-Scorsese theme park.—Keith Uhlich

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