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Comedy-drama starring Luke Wilson as a successful businessman who gets caught up in the profit and pitfalls of early 1990s internet commerce. Jack Harris (Wilson) enjoys a comfortable life in the suburbs with his wife (Jacinda Barrett) and two children. He has a reputation as an outstanding and trustworthy financial operator, which encourages ruthless lawyer Jerry Haggerty (James Caan) to direct two of his clients his way. Wayne Beering (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck Dolby (Gabriel Macht) are non-business savvy drifters who have come up with an innovative idea: using the newly hooked up World Wide Web to set up a pornographic website and charge for access. The millions start rolling in, but it isn't long before Jack's status as a middle man puts him in touch with the other side of the industry - Russian gangsters, FBI investigations and entanglements with 24-year-old porn stars...
For more about Middle Men and the Middle Men Blu-ray release, see Middle Men Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 5, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, James Caan, Jacinda Barrett, Kevin Pollak, Laura Ramsey
Director: George Gallo (I)
» See full cast & crew
Middle Men Blu-ray Review
Don't cut this disc out of your Blu-ray wish list.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 5, 2011
The more time you spend around all this stuff, the more normal it becomes.
Sex is the physical action that makes the world go 'round, well, other than all that science and astronomy stuff that really makes it go around, as in rotate about its axis and move around the sun. More figuratively, sex makes babies, and sex makes money. Yup, babies and money, that's pretty much what makes things happen on this rock these days. No people, no money; no money, well, there'd still be people, but best to leave debates like that for talk radio and college classrooms. As far as sex making money, look no further than the pornography industry. They say sex is what actually drives adoption of content delivery services and mediums, whether VHS tapes back in the day, DVDs, or the internet. Middle Men looks at the supposedly real-life story behind the development of both pornography delivery and monetary exchange systems on the World Wide Web back in the 'Net's infancy in the 1990s. The people who made it happen, the money they made, and the damages both irreparable and avoided are explored, everything, then, except for the end users who shelled out their money for a glimpse into the fantasy world of good looking women doing things for the camera that were once only reserved for the bedroom, and maybe too naughty even for that. Middle Men isn't just about wealth and sex, though; this is a fantastic little movie that explores the meteoric rise of big business and the ascension of profits and the egos to match. It's just a question of whether the middle men or the industry would be the first to crash.
Former NASA scientist Buck Dolby (Gabriel Macht, Behind Enemy Lines) and former veterinarian Wayne Beering (Giovanni Ribisi, Saving Private Ryan) are about to hit the jackpot. They're stumbled upon the cutting edge of the Internet revolution, and they've devised the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme: software that facilitates credit card transactions over the Internet. Combine that with charging for pornography, and it's not long before thousands of dollars come pouring in. In hopes of expanding their business, they partner with a Russian mobster/strip club owner (Rade Serbedzija) to film his strippers to use on their website. The two instnat millionaires manage to blow most of the cash in Vegas, and family man Jack Harris (Luke Wilson, Henry Poole is Here) is called in to clean up the mess. He tries to convince Buck and Wayne to play it straight and family-friendly by getting out of the porn business and only handling the transaction side of the ledger -- serving as "middle men" between content providers and consumers. It's a great idea and they all get even richer, quicker. Unfortunately, Jack falls into a sinful lifestyle where casual sex and violence are everyday occurrences. Can he keep his head on straight and hold together his family life while raking in the millions while surrounded by temptation?
It would be fair to call Middle Men the pornography version of The Social Network. Both films begin by exploring the rise to prominence, power, and wealth of Internet entrepreneurs, only to eventually showcase the dark side of Internet-era power and prestige by exposing the dangers behind instant success and the people who will do whatever it takes to justly or unjustly get their share of the pie. In other words, it's not a movie solely about adult content delivery but instead the seedy underbelly of what goes on behind the bits and bytes and credit card transactions and the end-product of digital sex. Middle Men is a dark and occasionally disturbing but sometimes funny film of dirty business, unscrupulous partnerships, uncertain futures, financial gains, and personal losses. The film isn't quite Fincher-esque in terms of its sheer brilliance of cinema-as-art, but there's a surprising parallel here in the way Director George Gallo handles the material of Middle Men; the film is melodic and oftentimes intoxicating not because of the onscreen sex but because of the way it so effortlessly draws in its audience with its smart, sometimes funny, and completely engaging storyline that's supported by several excellent performances and a moody, well-crafted visual fašade.
Of course, the film's very subject material is going to eliminate a certain percentage of potential audiences. This isn't a film made for mass consumption but is instead a picture that settles for honesty and realism no matter its potential to alienate certain segments of the population, even if that means diving headfirst into some pretty shady goings-on not only at the front of the line -- the pornography -- but behind-the-scenes where fast cash, easy women, a few tough hombres, and even a surprise visit from the federal government all work towards shaping how things play out. Middle Men isn't completely raunchy, but it's nevertheless a film that deals with mature themes and characters, and it's that insistence on holding nothing back -- not visually, not verbally, not stylistically, not thematically -- that makes it work so well. Middle Men manages to completely engulf the viewer into the world of fast cash, loose women, and bad business dealings; Director George Gallo and Cinematographer Lukas Ettlin prove incredibly capable of filming the movie in such a way that the audience seems to have a stake in the business, experiences the ups and downs and pains and joys and everything in between, and feels like the fate of the players really matters; Middle Men doesn't just tell a story, it lets its viewers live it, and it certainly doesn't hurt that the movie is hip and cool and happening, too. It's a total package sort of deal and even sports some excellent performance not only from leads Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, and Gabriel Macht, but from actors who play secondary characters, including James Caan, Kelsey Grammer, Kevin Pollak, and Laura Ramsey.
Middle Men Blu-ray, Video Quality
Middle Men shows what Paramount is capable of producing on Blu-ray. This 1080p transfer is a stunner from beginning to end, showcasing everything that's good about a Blu-ray release while keeping the bugaboos to a minimum. The film sports a slightly warm texture that gives faces a slight red push, but colors are nevertheless stable, bright, and accurate nonetheless, with objects like aqua blue shirts or red-and-white checkered picnic table cloths looking as fresh as they would on a bright sunny day in real life. The film's darker scenes favor a yellow-green tinge that emphasizes a downtrodden and disturbed feel, and the transfer handles both extremes equally well. Fine detail is excellent across the board, with human faces, textured straw hats, or most any object in the foreground revealing every small nuance. Black levels are quite good, and a layer of film grain covers the image and rounds a wonderful film-like texture into form. Slight banding is present in a few places, but this is otherwise a rock-solid Bu-ray transfer that's quite the looker.
Middle Men Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Middle Men features a fine DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track does just about everything right, but Middle Men doesn't give it a whole lot to work with. There's some decent atmospherics, nothing all that special, that mingle about the soundstage here and there in the form of gently falling rain or the general background din of various public places. The film is primarily driven by dialogue, and the center channel handles the spoken word like a champ. Things do liven up form time to time; a strip club in chapter four offers some work for a rested subwoofer and Paramount's track plays all of the various popular songs heard through the movie quite well. The track is highly proficient and carries the bulk of its information across the front, but some music and a few of those background atmospherics do slip into the back. There's nothing really special here, but competency is the order of the day, and this track is quite proficient at delivering all that's asked of it with ease.
Middle Men Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Middle Men features a few throwaway standard-definition extras and a solid technically-oriented commentary track.
Middle Men Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Social Network it is not, but Middle Men is a smart and savvy little picture that, unfortunately, didn't find much of an audience during its theatrical run. While David Fincher's masterpiece has rightfully been lauded all the way to the Oscars, Middle Men will have to settle for second place, not that there's anything wrong with that. Great performances, an engaging story that pulls no punches, a happening soundtrack, and lush cinematography are all key elements in this fantastic under-the-radar picture. Here's hoping Middle Men will find some traction on home video. Paramount's Blu-ray release isn't packed to the gills with extras, but the stunning 1080p transfer and solid lossless soundtrack make this disc strong where it needs to be. Recommended.
Middle Men: Other Editions
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Middle Men Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Date Change for Middle Men Blu-ray - December 14, 2010
Paramount Home Entertainment has moved forward the release date of Middle Men, initially slated for Blu-ray release on February 15, 2011. This movie about the rise of online pornography in the mid 1990s will now street a week earlier, on February 8. Release details ...
• Middle Men Blu-ray Announced - November 11, 2010
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced Middle Men for Blu-ray release on February 15, 2011. This movie, inspired by a true story about the rise of online pornography in the mid 1990s, stars Luke Wilson and Giovanni Ribisi. It opened in theaters in August, but ...
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