If the plot of Middle Men sounds familiar — Luke Wilson gets in bed with James Caan, who just wants to fuck him — that’s because it’s the same plot as Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson’s 1996 directorial debut, in which Wilson and Caan worked together for the first time. Middle Men is that tale told without the hard-boiled whimsy, though the classic-rock score remains.
Wilson plays a relatively decent guy embraced by Caan’s sleaze-bag operator, who then introduces him to the idiots who will bring about his ultimate undoing. Wilson plays Jack Harris, a wholly fictionalized character who, according to the screenplay by George Gallo and Andy Weiss, helps introduce pornography to the World Wide Web and, in turn, the World Wide Web to your credit card. But Jack is just the middleman, clearing the path for the inventors of online porn (Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht) and paying off Russian gangsters, Vegas attorneys, and other crooks and cronies who come at him.
It plays like Goodfellas-lite, but the compelling story holds, thanks mostly to Wilson. Easily his best performance since Bottle Rocket. Definitely better than those AT&T ads.