Oddly enough, I think Middle Men would have been much easier for me to swallow had it not promised the "Based on a True Story" thing up front. The film was produced by the guy Luke Wilson's character is based on, and if that man isn't an elaborate liar, well he may be certifiably insane, cuz ain't no way shit played out like this. The film is a fun enough romp, but it goes to such extreme lengths to entertain you that you just sort of lose respect for it after awhile. I was hoping for an interesting story on how internet porn was born, and I wouldn't in the least bit be surprised if two drag-addled morons (portrayed cartoonishly but effectively by Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht) were the ones to invent it. What I can't fathom however is a Russian mob connection (complete with blackmail, murder, and kidnappings) and a pair of FBI agents using the porn site to track down and eliminate Afghani terrorists. It all just felt a bit too Hollywoodized and unnecessarily action-friendly (not a surprise coming from the writer of Bad Boys and Midnight Run).
It should be noted that all the performances in Middle Men were perfectly acceptable. No Oscar noms here, but James Caan, Jacinda Barrett, and a shockingly hot Laura Ramsey round out a group of fine performances, topped off by front-man Luke Wilson's strongish turn, which is a huge accomplishment considering how messily his character is written; and therein lies the problem.
The script is an absolute mess, varying in tone from comedy to thriller to melodrama, and a few other genres in between. Characters personalities and motivations are constantly changing, the highlight being Wilson's honest-family-business-man-turned-corrupt-philandering-porn-king at the flip of a dime. I couldn't decide if I wanted to root for the man or not, a huge flaw in my opinion. With absolutely no other likable characters around (with the exception of the always awesome Terry Crews) I just couldn't get myself invested in this film. Sure, the visuals were slick, the editing tight, and the plot constantly moved at a nice clip, but I never found myself investing in (or caring about) a single scene or character.
That's a significant enough problem to have with any film, but with one that's allegedly based on a true story? Oh boy.
Deleted Scenes (5:48) - Two deleted scenes here would have been hugely helpful in giving a bit more depth and history to Jack's character, but as the director and editor clearly iterated in the commentary track, they wanted this film to move, move, move. In other words, substance took a backseat to style.
Outtakes (1:40) - A quick little montage where I’m pretty sure Luke Wilson reveals himself to be sort of an asshole, or at least unhappy to be in this film.
Slap Montage (0:57) - A fun little featurette probably cobbled together one day when the editor was bored. Do bad guys really slap each other in real life? I’d think they'd punch or stab. Just spitballin’ here.