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Middle Men’s Style a Rip-off of Goodfellas?

from – If Henry Hill of “Goodfellas” had left witness protection and gone straight into the Internet porn racket, “Middle Men” could have been the next movie made about him.

In fact, director George Gallo [pictured] seems so enamored of Martin Scorsese’s Mafia classic, he’s borrowed everything from the use of voiceover to the Stones-centric soundtrack to the insistent editing style. What’s missing, alas, is the artistry.

The actual antihero of this seedy tale, which was loosely inspired by true events, is a straight-arrow Southerner named Jack Harris (Luke Wilson).

In 1995, Jack is living a quiet life with his wife (Jacinda Barrett) and kids when he gets a job offer on the West Coast. He’s put out when he meets his new business partners, Wayne (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck (Gabriel Macht), who are obvious drug addicts. And he’s not thrilled to hear that he’s expected to organize the Internet’s first viable adult entertainment websites, which will allow consumers to download pornography directly into their homes.

But there’s so much money involved that Jack puts aside his hesitations, convinced he alone can rise above the corruption of his chosen profession. (Apparently, he’s never seen “Goodfellas” himself.)

Gallo has the start of a good story here, but he can’t find an original way to explore it. So Wilson narrates incessantly, telling us about crucial events and details that we should see for ourselves.

We hear about the seductive decadence, but Gallo never figures out how to capture it. It doesn’t help that none of the leads finds a comfortable equilibrium. Wilson, for example, is always too calm and remote, Ribisi always too volatile and irritating.

The supporting cast, including James Caan as a sleazy lawyer and Kevin Pollak as an FBI agent, fare better. But Gallo won’t slow down for a minute to allow the plot to simply unfold. He’s constantly flashing back or forward, distracting us or trying to grab our ­attention. It’s a strategy that seems oddly misjudged. Even his characters understand that porn is perfectly capable of selling itself.


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