Middle Men: You Couldn’t Buy Anything Online Until They Came Along (2009)

Posted: November 26, 2011 in Comedy, Crime, Drama

Wayne Beering and Buck Dolby ended up in California in an attempt to make it big. By accident, they developed a way to charge people for access to adult content online and started a new business of internet financial transactions. As the business slowly grew, they branched out and developed a deal with some owners of a gentlemen’s club and found themselves working with the mafia. Their trip to Vegas unfortunately brought their earnings to a halt and required the assistance of a professional. Called on by Jerry Haggerty, Jack Harris flies out to Vegas to help the two struggling entrepreneurs and get them squared away with their business partners. As their bumbling causes Jack to invest more time in the development of their enterprise, he slowly becomes attracted to the lifestyle of parties and gorgeous women, putting a strain on his relationship with his wife. As he takes on more of the business operations of the internet billing program, even Jack becomes challenged with how entangled his life can get.

Starring: Luke Wilson (Jack Harris), Giovanni Ribisi (Wayne Beering), Gabriel Macht (Buck Dolby), James Caan (Jerry Haggerty), Jacinda Barrett (Diana Harris), Kevin Pollak (Curt Allmans), Laura Ramsey (Audrey Dawns), Rade Serbedzija (Nikita Sokoloff), Terry Crews (James), Kelsey Grammer (Frank Griffin), Graham McTavish (Ivan Sokoloff), Robert Forester (Louie LA LA)

This lesser recognized film feels less like a comedy and more like a drama, lead by the Owens brother with a little more range in emotion. Luke Wilson starts off as a confident businessman, but his confidence clearly becomes a shade to the trouble being caused by his partners. Wilson, as the focal point, has a poise and intelligence in this film which ultimately makes him the character most easy with which to connect. Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht are definitely the contributors to the comedic end of the film with their constant bickering and poor, lackadaisical decision-making. James Caan, similar to his role in the TV show Las Vegas, has an old-world charm as a connected, back-door dealing lawyer who is more out for his own hide. As the secret girlfriend for Wilson, Laura Ramsey certainly seems much more like the girl next door than an up-and-coming adult film actress. Making some interesting cameo appearances are Terry Crews (as Wilson’s friend and former client), Kevin Pollak (as the informative government agent) and Kelsey Grammer (as the gung-ho politician looking to make a name for himself).

While George Gallo’s Middle Men is about the men who started the internet adult media industry and the entanglement of business with the mafia, the story highlights the development of the internet and the ability to pay for goods and service electronically. The film depicts the two men who met and developed the idea for internet payments specifically with adult pictures to be paid by the view/download. Besides the entanglement with the mafia, these men hit a gold mine to clean up in a new way in adult media. Instant access became vital to the success of their empire. While it may have started in the adult entertainment arena, the same technology later spread into the greater public domain in the form of other goods and services, including those from major companies and organizations.

The story certainly is compelling and complex but somewhat unbelievable, even though it is based on a true story. It is hard to imagine that Wayne and Buck were so poorly coordinated yet stumbled onto such a major breakthrough. Still, Jack had to know what he was getting into when he signed on to the project. He was certainly in it for the money (as evidenced by his interactions with Jerry), but he seemed to be oblivious to the strain it was going to cause his marriage and the temptation of being around the women and the parties associated with adult media. His narrations seemed to miss the dangers he should have known were coming.

While the story is certainly interesting and the acting is actual fairly decent, the movie has some plot holes and is not that marketable to a wider audience. Though the movie is about the tangled mess of the business of internet content, billing and partnerships with the mafia, the adult industry element is certainly a distractor to appreciating the story.

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5


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