Pain & Gain Screen 18 articles

Pain & Gain

2013

Pain & Gain Poster
  • It's M.B. business as usual: You’ve got your jacked-up, Jerry Bruckheimer–sanctioned aesthetic that jettisons all editorial coherence. You have your virulent disgust for non-Caucasians (you again, Ken Jeong?) and women of all shapes and sizes (poor Rebel Wilson is reduced to an African-American-desiring sight gag as Doorbal’s plus-size nurse girlfriend). Should we even mention the crinkle-faced fear of sex outside the hetero norm? (Ew, dildos…for homos!)

  • Relying on slow-mo, on-screen text, and the occasional go-pro cam, Pain & Gain isn’t quite the destructive blockbuster Bay excels at—but neither is it a refreshing change. An earnest attempt at action-comedy falls flat mostly due to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s clunky screenplay.

  • For better or worse — arguably both — Bay remains one of the most distinctive visual stylists at work in American movies today, and “Pain & Gain” is nothing if not an orgy of swooshing, swooping movements, super slo-mo, blazing pastels (for the exteriors) and glowing neon (for the interiors), all captured on an array of pro and prosumer cameras, both film and digital, that give the movie a luxurious array of visual textures.

  • Rife with racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism, and infatuated with superficial beauty, physical strength, wealth, and military might, it's the perfect encapsulation of Bay's favorite things, a rollicking, repugnant, hilarious mess of inappropriateness that at once embraces, and condemns, its many tasteless elements.

  • Bay and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely ("The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe") don't hold back any bile here: With one striking exception, all of the film's characters are immodestly pathetic. "Pain & Gain" is irrepressibly sleazy, frequently exhausting and sometimes as bitterly funny as its creators think it is.

  • As the film grinds along, Bay's exhausting supply of macho consumerist images — from the fleets of Lamborghinis to the low-angle buffet of South Beach hard bodies — undercut the film's attempts at social commentary. He's the last person in Hollywood who has any business decrying the consequences of a culture that encourages taking shortcuts and living large.

  • With the flashy fact-based comedy Pain & Gain, Michael Bay attempts to flex his satirical muscles for the first time in his career. But after spending 20 years (and three Transformers movies) letting his intelligence atrophy into a thin, stringy mass, the director fails to get a firm grip on the material, and ends up dropping the (medicine) ball squarely on his own foot.

  • There’s a way to play this material, but Pain & Gain doesn’t really find it – maybe because Bay has only one rhythm, his thrusting, in-your-face, fist-pumping rhythm. As the tale grows weirder and more episodic, the film should perhaps have slowed down or stepped back (or become more stylised like Boogie Nights, to cite another Mark Wahlberg movie), but Bay just keeps hitting the same hysterical note... so you end up feeling brutalised.

  • Those might sound like juvenile, sitcom-style capers, but as Bay reminds his audience at the film's beginning and again later on, they were real events—real being a relative term in Miami. For moviegoers whose disbelief is still sore from being suspended so high above Bay's earlier CGI-heavy festivals of eye candy like Transformers, the "true story" label keeps the focus on how fun it is to watch these guys.

  • [The film doesn't] represent some kind of attempt on Bay's part to "atone for his sins." If anything, "Pain and Gain"... adds a whole roster of sins to Bay's CV. But in doing its unwholesome work the movie manages to be devilishly entertaining, and, perhaps inadvertently, to achieve the status of genuine satire, even against itself.

  • Bay’s decision to team up with Markus and McFeely is a smart one. The blending of genres (the buddy movie and heist film are turned on their heads) and the obvious odes to Scarface, Boogie Nights and True Romance (everything starting out so right before going so wrong) feel inspired, and moments of comedy lurk beneath the lurid surface, particularly in the lead performances and co-star Rebel Wilson as Mackie's doctor-turned-wife.

  • Pain & Gain ends up overcoming its many faults, because its maximalist style matches up with the ridiculous escalation of the narrative, which despite its non-fiction origins feels as garishly over-inflated as everything else on display here. It’s an ugly movie, but there’s something hideously cathartic about its clear-eyed take on the predatory cycles of capitalist desire...

  • You see, there’s the essential paradox of “Pain & Gain,” which veers from remarkably pithy moments of social satire (and quite a few big laughs) to painful and overstylized visual and auditory assault, in the great Michael Bay tradition. It makes fun of these criminal lowlife losers for pursuing a vulgar and stupid vision of American success – fast cars, leggy girls, big houses, vicious crimes — which is precisely the vision Bay has been pimping throughout his filmmaking career.

  • It’s not a formal masterwork that reinvents the overpraised and often-misattributed skill of storytelling; rather, it resets to an accurate present-day time the very notion of a mainstream mode of storytelling that rejoins the best discursive, digressive, freewheelingly apostrophizing traditions of playwrights, novelists, and their studio-era heirs.

  • Pain & Gain may seem like a subversion of the values his other movies epitomize, but it's still highly characteristic. Bay cuts frenetically, punctuating the dialogue with slow-motion shots, extreme low-angle compositions, and unmotivated tracking. His style is as shrill as ever, yet it doesn't seem quite so arbitrary here; in fact it often feels like a suitable analogue to the characters' superficial natures.

  • While Pain & Gain often frustrates, Bay’s overwhelming cinematic sense is undeniable – he’s swallowed the dictionary of film grammar and there are moments when the movie’s sunstroke delirium and iconographic flair recall the Mikhail Kalatozov of I Am Cuba (1964). Deeply conflicted and fitfully brilliant, Pain & Gain may not be the movie of the moment that cinephiles wanted – certainly not from this smirking, perma-tanned messenger – but it’s the one we’ve got.

  • [Bay] cleverly ditches any sign of the egregious sentimentalism and cheap heroism that have often pickled his otherwise plainly dumb actioners, and by consistently engaging a sense of dark comedy in the story, the director seems to let the pseudo-patriotic façade of his style rot away.

  • Though I think Pain & Gain is under-appreciated, I wouldn’t call it completely misunderstood. For one thing, it got Bay some of the best reviews of the latter part of his career, in addition to the pans. For another, most of the things singled for criticism by the film’s detractors are true; they’re part of the appeal. It *is* loud and garish and excessive, and it drips with contempt for almost all of its characters... You either find those qualities off-putting or exhilarating.

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