mid·dle·man: /ˈmidlˌman/ – a person who arranges business or political deals between other people.
Also known as the go-between, or the manipulator, or the “wait, what did I just really agree to, asshole??” guy. And in Lenny Freeman’s case, it refers to a hitchhiker named Hitch (yes, I know), who may or may not have roped him into a deal with the devil himself. Oops.
Lenny Freeman’s dream of being a famous comedian is about to become a nightmare. Not only is he stuck in a dead end accounting job, Lenny has a bigger problem — Lenny is not funny. When his mother suddenly dies, he quits his job and heads to Vegas in search of fame. But along the way, a mysterious hitchhiker lures him into a desert-town killing spree with a dark and twisted result – as the bodies pile up, Lenny actually becomes funnier and funnier.
Another Portland Film Fest selection, MIDDLE MAN definitely shows us that the devil is in the details (sometimes literally) and you should, perhaps, be careful what you wish for. Personally, I don’t know what the big deal is to Lenny – couple of dead people vs. guaranteed stardom…?? (Kidding, kidding! #totes) And to think it all starts with one jerkface heckler (don’t be jerkfaces, people. It leads nowhere good!). And everyone, just don’t pick up hitchhikers, especially ones named Hitch, because C’MON! And if a person you just met starts trying to convince you that they can absolutely be your manager and help make you famous, etc. etc., just NO. And for fucks’ sake, if you wake up after a night of drinking with a new friend and there’s a dead person in front of you that you don’t remember killing but your new friends says, yep, you must’ve – RUN. AWAY.
I guess it’s not entirely Lenny’s fault. He was stuck living somewhere in the 50s and didn’t seem entirely aware of the dangers of now. (And by that I mean, kind of how my parents like to pretend that we all live in an episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH show). No, Lenny seemed to be a very kind, but VERY oblivious to anything not related to him, sorta guy. Hence why his stand-up act wasn’t very good. He grew up listening to comedians from the Ed Asner/Milton Berle era(s) and never moved past their comedy into his own style (a style which should’ve apparently included a lot of misogynistic sex “jokes” according to his competition at the club). BUT when people started dying, Lenny kept getting funnier and funnier.(Maybe he got their funny as it left their bodies?)
I liked the style of this film – where it was set in contemporary times but with Lenny’s car, attitude and certain styles of clothing, etc. seemed to be a throw-back to the 50s. The nostalgia was definitely strong with this one! And the desert landscapes were absolutely GORGEOUS. (Desert = scary because desert has sunshine, but desert is also so so pretty.)
Jim O’Heir could NOT have been anymore perfect as “Lenny”. Oblivious, slightly charming, freaked the fuck out, happy, panicked, slightly crazy…his portrayal of Lenny’s rise to “stardom” and subsequent downfall before the fact was A+. Andrew J. West as “Hitch” was an endearing ball of sunshine…no, wait. I meant to say, one crazy motherfucker. We, the audience, know something’s off with him early on, but he manages to keep his homicidal tendencies on the down low from Lenny for at least…I dunno, like 15 hours? West plays “Hitch” as constantly on edge, walking a fine line between “will I fuck you up?” and “oops, that was totes an accident! Kinda…”, a line that another actor well might have stepped over early on in the film. West kept it all tightly reined in till needed though and was magnificent. He was definitely my favorite thing about MIDDLE MAN.
Unfortunately, overall, despite it’s dark comedic overtones and West’s fabulous performance, I wasn’t a huge fan of MIDDLE MAN. While I understood the point of all the death, I also got bored watching essentially the exact same thing happen 3 or 4 times. The ending – the very last scene – was so fucking kickass that I’m still thinking about it, but otherwise, I found the film kind of “meh”. It was in no way bad and was actually quite well done, so I think it was just the length and repetition that soured me on it. Still, I definitely think it’s worth watching, especially if dark comedy is your thing, so check out the trailer and then tell me your thoughts!