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3 stars
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
2.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Skip it

Middle Men (2009)

Street Date:
February 8th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
February 2nd, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Paramount
Length:
105 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Who would've thought that pornography on the internet would turn out to be such a big deal? Okay, so hindsight is twenty-twenty, and we can all look back on it and say "I wish I would have thought of that," but when the internet was first becoming available to the public there wasn't a single porn site on it. Can you imagine such a world? Nowadays we have porn sites for every kind of perversion known to man, and most likely quite a few dedicated to things most of us would rather not know about at all. 'Middle Men' is about the men who thought up the idea of internet porn.

Wayne (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck (Gabriel Macht) are the guys behind the big idea. I don't know why, but it's oddly fitting that a duo named Wayne and Buck came up with the idea of plastering nudie pictures on the World Wide Web. There's only one problem. When it comes to running a business, these guys are morons. Buck is a rocket scientist, so he's able to write a program that takes people's credit card numbers online – the first technology of its kind. Soon the orders start flowing in, but Wayne and Buck's porn is very limited since it comes from scanned pages that have been ripped out of magazines. They're subscribers become unhappy with the limited content, so Wayne and Buck are forced to try to create their own.

Displaying their stupidity, they head to the nearest strip club which is owned by the top Russian Mafioso in California. Do you think he's going to let these guys, and the goldmine they've stumbled onto, get away so easily? Not a chance.

That's where Jack (Luke Wilson) comes in. He's a fixer. He takes over the business end of the deal, and tries to corral the two numbskulls who came up with the idea in the first place. Soon Jack is whisked away into an opulent lifestyle that he's not accustomed to. They're making outrageous amounts of money.

'Middle Men' is apparently based on the true story about how internet porn came to be. Whether it follows strictly to the source material, I have no idea. As a movie, however, it's fairly confused. The beginning wants to be a comedy, where it succeeds marginally. Ribisi is always great playing a doped-out stoner with a low brain cell count, so he's good for a few laughs. Then the movie turns toward a more serious, dramatic side as it becomes more about Jack and his estrangement from his wife and relationship with the most popular adult film star.

The movie never quite knows which route it wants to take, and over its 112 minute runtime, we never care much for the people involved. The film felt much better as a comedy and much less believable when it slipped on its dramatic façade.

If you're interested in how internet porn came to be and you want to get a glimpse at the people who started it all, then 'Middle Men' might be right up your alley.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The AVC-encoded image presented for 'Middle Men' on Blu-ray is just about average. It features some nice, lush colors. As the movie pans the period of time – from the late 90s to the 2000s – we see the colors, clothes, and textures slowly change. Fine detail looks great during close ups as pores and minute facial hairs are visible. Pull the camera back a bit and the detail fades somewhat into a soft, diffused look that doesn't provide a lot of detail for a high-def presentation.

Shadows look great though, and crushing is never a problem here. Even during dark scenes, like in strip clubs or out on a boat in the ocean late at night, the shadows do a great job at adding depth and detail to the image. The movie switches back and forth between purposefully yellowed scenes, to icy blues. It's not as jarring as it was in 'Takers' and it works well here.

Errant noise does hamper a few shots. There is aliasing on a couple scenes where Luke Wilson wears a checkered jacket. I did notice some compression noise in the blue skies of the movie's background. Even though the colors and detail look pretty good, when coupled with the errant noise, this presentation is never able to score high marks.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

'Middle Men's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix provides a much more well-rounded presentation though. Dialogue is nice and clearly intelligible through the front and center channels. Even when Buck and Wayne are yelling over each other, each of their voices can be heard distinctly.

The rear channels are given a fairly hefty load as they pipe in with all sorts of ambient sound that makes for an engaging listening environment. Bustling strip clubs, raucous parties, and lively horse races are all well represented in the ambient soundfield.

The soundtrack calls for LFE quite a few times as hip-hop music blares as girls dance. The bass is nice and even, and never over indulges. It's well blended with the rest of the soundtrack.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary — Director George Gallo, editor Malcolm Campbell, and cinematographer Lukas Ettlin are present for this audio commentary. Gallo controls the proceedings as the three of them discuss the more technical side of the movie. Campbell and Ettlin get to talk in-depth about their roles on the film. Gallo is able to recall certain days of shooting and is able to recount stories about how the film was shot and why they did things a certain way. The most interesting thing that they talk about is trying to get interesting visuals to take over during the voiceover narration. This is a pretty standard audio commentary without many bells and whistles. Just a few filmmakers talking plainly about the production of their film, nothing more.

  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 6 min.) — Three deleted scenes in all. These are definitely skip-worthy, as you'll see exactly why they needed to be cut from the movie. They're unmemorable to say the least. I'm really glad the Young Jack scene was cut out. It literally has nothing to do with the rest of the story.

  • Outtakes (SD, 2 min.) — Your standard line flubs and guffaws as actors mess up.

  • Slap Montage (SD, 1 min.) — No really, there's a slap montage in here. It's just a mash up of all the slaps that are handed out during the film. Many of them repeated five or six times. Yeah, I know you're dying to see this.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There is no bonus HD content here.

Final Thoughts

'Middle Men' never even comes remotely close to reaching the anxiety and tension that was raised in another porn-centric flick, 'Boogie Nights.' It seems more like a confused film that never really knows what it wants to be. The stars, except for Ribisi, seem to be phoning in their performances and waiting for their paycheck. 'Middle Men' isn't anything special. Its video is a little disappointing, but it's got some decent audio. Its special features are the same standard fare that we've seen a gazillion times before. I'd say skip this one. Simple as that.

Technical Specs

  • 50GB Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish

Supplements

  • Deleted scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Featurette: Slap montage

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