Sinfully squalid, George Gallo's undeniably interesting Middle Men regales the fast track of on-line pornography. It makes good use of Vegas's Hard Rock Casino Hotel and Arizona locations.
This portentous comedy, loosely inspired by personal experiences when the Internet began to boom (an electronic "Wild Wild West" chaos), came about when the filmmakers clung to an idea originally planned for a small-screen premium outlet.
Among a larger ensemble, Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, and Gabriel Macht stand out as the titular figures as the candor of the material is embraced.
One is drawn into the subculture of something wanton and alluring (see films like The Player, Wall Street or Boogie Nights), but the unabashed depiction and performances aren't close to its sheer indolence or indulgences for that matter.
Part of the technique by Gallo and fellow scribe Andy Weiss offers a variety of vantage points and voice-over commentary from the oft-used Rashomon prototype.
Striking and shocking incidents are recounted as the unscrupulous and unctuous of the average make their way quickly to fame and fortune.
Wilson underplays the sympathetic Jack Harris, a seemingly on-the-up Texas entrepeneur whose life changes when he hooks up with the addled, debased Wayne, a scene-stealingly wildly garrulous Ribisi and Macht's former NASA tech Buck Dolby.
Jack necessitates a strategy to advertise their most lurid desires which starting nabbing a large market a little over a decade ago as website usage exponentially rose with (tax-free) benefits. Thus, a more hedonistic lifestyle was out there to be had.
And, the adroit dealing billing operation manager in Jack (not into the sex business like his crazy successful cohorts) has much contact with an array of sleazy folks, including on-line con-artists, porn stars, federal agents, politicians, businessman, as well crime syndicates. Gallo just doesn't render a lot of it with the type of finesse that one might expect from the complications of an enterprise comparable to hotel (pay-per-view) entertainment for its guests. It revels sometimes unchronologically in a blunt lap of luxury, manipulating and skulduggery as lives were changed through new, albeit crass, commercial means.
With a patient, sensible Jack providing a fair amount of narration, it's clear there's a personal struggle while setting new professional goals with major risks as he runs a nightclub. Prioritizing isn't easy for someone with a wife (Jacinda Barrett) and son while philandering with adult performer Audrey (Laura Ramsey).
This gritty, insider saga plays (at least) like a three-ring circus with an energetic, timely soundtrack augmenting a more modest production. Besides a mirthfully motivated impulsive Ribisi, James Caan provides corrupted color to Vegas attorney Jerry Haggerty, while Rade Serbedzija embodies a high-level Russian mobster. And, Kelsey Grammer and Robert Forster are noteworthy in smaller appearances as those who try to curtail and propel Jack's tools of conducting business.
Middle Men is a little coarse in its presentation as some of its intended graphic self-gratification nature indicates, losing a needed emotional pull as the actors ultimately are hung out to dry through very profitable fantasies and foul play.