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The Middle Man

average rating is 4 out of 5


Brian Penn


Posted on:

Mar 7, 2023

Film Reviews
The Middle Man
Directed by:
Bent Hamer
Written by:
Lars Saabye, Bent Hame
Pål Sverre Hagen, Paul Gross, Rossif Sutherland

In a world scarred by war, disease and natural disasters the last thing anyone needs is more bad news. Worst still when it must be conveyed to some poor soul’s nearest and dearest. So why not employ someone to deliver that message on your behalf? That is the simple yet compelling premise for this new film The Middle Man by Bent Hamer. The administrators of a small-time American town are looking for a chump, fall guy or more diplomatically, a middle man to administer bad news. The successful applicant has to be a people person and is likely to be extremely busy.

Frank Farrelli (Pål Sverre Hagen) is looking for a job. He applies for the position of Middle Man in Karmack, a town in the grip of a deep depression. The Commission convene to interview to Frank; the sheriff, pastor and town hall fixer need someone to deal with the fallout from accidents. He gets the job and is given an office, business card and secretary to ‘administrate’ for him. Guided by the Sheriff (Paul Gross) Frank learns the harsh realities of life as a middle man. He uncovers dark secrets in a blinkered community where people know each other a bit too well. But also discovers a darker side of his own personality, and quietly revels in the power that goes with the job. When best friend Steve (Rossif Sutherland) gets into a bar room fight it sets off a train of events. Old and festering wounds are opened and relationships begin to fracture.

The Middle Man positively reeks of atmosphere in the driest and most non-descript of American towns. Characters stripped of promise by the mundanity of life and its inevitable routine. The narrative is populated by oddballs who are strangely likeable and garner sympathy as underdogs with grit and determination. There is a generous helping of the Coen Brothers and a dash of David Lynch to add a unique flourish. True to its inspiration the plot gently rubs on the senses as the visuals pull the viewer in.

However, its essential strength could also indicate a basic weakness. The influence of the Coen Brothers is hidden in plain sight, and is hugely reminiscent of ‘Blood Simple’. The general construction of plot and interplay between characters is comfortably familiar. But it remains a thoroughly enjoyable film, cut to a lean and manageable 95 minutes for comfort.

About the Film Critic
Brian Penn
Brian Penn
Theatrical Release
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