Packed with more voice-over narration than a docent's tour of the Metropolitan Museum, "Middle Men" is formulaic to a fault. The always amiable Luke Wilson does vocal and acting honors as Texas businessman Jack Harris. Jack is an inveterate problem-solver who all but abandons his wife and kids when he stumbles into a business opportunity managing the massive cash flow for an early online porn company run by a couple of drug crazed idiot geniuses (well played by Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht). The movie swims in the same murky waters of commercialized sexuality as Taylor Hackford's "Love Ranch." The '90s era story is a frenetic dance between ruthless Russian mobsters in Los Angeles, an endless bevy of nude beauties, the FBI, a corrupt attorney (James Caan) and a can-do protagonist whose transformation of character is more of a line than an arc. Based on a true story, the generically titled movie is so perfunctory that you could mistake its smoothness for polish. Even when violence and skullduggery occur, there's no sense of pain or panic. The performances are not to blame. James Caan is especially fun to watch. But between the spoon-fed narration taking the place of montage storytelling, and a director unable to orchestrate dramatic tension, "Middle Men" becomes an instantly forgettable story because there's never enough at stake. You'll be entertained, but you won't know why.
Rated R. 113 mins. (C+) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)
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