Middle Men

Jerk Fellas

         
 

13 August 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Unsavory and without family values, but in this case, the filmmakers do not and should not care to be coy about a searing and potent subject. Middle Men depicts how the world was different after 1997, when porn sites began to populate the information highway. The film spends several years following Jack Harris (Luke Wilson), and other composite fictional characters and composite accounts, on what happened speculatively in the early years of internet pornography. It also claims the birth arrangement of online credit card charges (if you can believe it. I don’t). This sleazy and titillating film has lots of hardened and disaffected naked chicks, but its men like protagonist Jack and the Russian mobsters backing the industry, that are given personality in the film. Only two women in the film register, to be later mentioned.

Luke Wilson is the Texas businessman who gets sucked into porn commerce. He flies to Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the early scenes in effort to transform the schemes of two dirtbags – Wayne Beering and Buck Dolby (Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht) – into a legitimate business model. After scanning pictures onto the internet and filming girls at a strip joint, they take the material and post online. The online video stuff doesn’t make sense because online streaming wasn’t buffered at the time.

Jack is the consultant who turns the enterprise into a smoother practice. He suggests to Wayne and Buck instead of filming your own girls, become the middle men, let pornographers send you the material, and set up credit card transactions within a discretion system – in essence, a billing company.

Back home, Jack has a classy and naïve wife (Jacinda Barrett, “Ladder 49”) and children to care for but his appearance in Los Angeles becomes routine as the industry sky-rockets. Financial and infrastructure betrayals are constant, and this requires Jack to oversee and run everything himself. Over the course of years, Russian mobsters are seen as repeat backstabbers and a crooked Vegas lawyer (James Caan) connives Jack’s partners into shadier dealings.

Then there is a 23-year old porn star named Audrey Dawns (Laura Ramsey) who makes a seductive case of why Jack should desert his wife – this is where the drama of temptation between confused men and opportunistic women takes a formidable grip. Jack deludes himself into believing that he can lead a double-life successfully without losing the sanctification of family life, but learns gradually that is an impossible thing to do. Jack is the good family man gone to the dark side.

What the movie leaves out, or barely hints at, is the difference between hard-core and soft-core porn – the porn starlets in the film are typically plastic surgery-enhanced bimbos. Audrey Dawns is supposed to be the flipside, the naughty angel of worldwide web porn, but the script would make you think she is the only one. The script would also make you think that Jack Harris is the only entrepreneur, and the film’s suggestion that he had a monopoly on internet porn enterprise is a stretch.

Directed and co-written (along with Andy Weiss) by George Gallo, his film is a “GoodFellas” Jr. on internet porn history, at rates sensational and phony, in-depth and broad, tantalizing and addictive, and perpetually probing in regards to business and to the cultural shift in ever-changing modern sexual attitudes. The movie is surprisingly wise about how, as conveyed through analog quasi-documentary narration by Jack, that the triangle of money and power (and sex) is a hard to curb and hard to acknowledge addiction because the consequences can be bought off. Ordinary life such as kids’ baseball games and barbecues become strange to a guy like Jack after awhile.

 105 Minutes. Rated R.

DRAMA / SEX ADDICTION / WEEKEND VIEWING DEBAUCHERY

Film Cousins: “Pretty Baby” (1978); “Star 80″ (1983); “GoodFellas” (1990); “The People vs. Larry Flynt” (1996).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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