Release Date: April 26, 2013
Director: Michael Bay
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 4/10
A pop-hollywood ride through a real life story, Pain and Gain does not rivet, ravish, or even investigate its subject matter very deeply. In fact, it altogether survives without even touching the tender and gruesome innards of the three murderers it uses to tell its story. Floating over such issues as the heinous natures that comprise the kind of criminal that can rob someone of their hard earned wealth, steal their fancy Miami cars or boats for joys rides, and throw back a little cocaine (by little I mean an elephant sized pile) to amp it up under the hot Florida sun, it goes long and hard into glorifying this very behavior. Lets not forget the piles of money on tanning beds with the three partners in crime donning florescent eye goggles, one of whom is also living with Jesus as his savior. Wait, am I writing about Spring Breakers or Michael Bay here?
Actually, there are many comparisons to be made, and the major difference is not the intelligence of the characters, the performance of the actors, or the solidity of the story. What sets the two films apart seems to be simply that one director is an artist, and the other is a Hollywood man, but I digress…
Michael Bay is not a director known for making brilliant films, and he seems to be out of touch with the potential in material to the extent that Stevie Wonder can tell me the color of dress I’m wearing right now (its blue, Stevie, blue). The film clearly favors being fun, and at times funny, than it favors being good. This confuses me, especially concerning one particular point. If a true story script that is as disgusting as it is ridiculous crosses your agents desk, is that agent’s suggestion really the only reason you end up making the film? Of course, that’s speculation, but there is no voice in this film that is concerned with the interesting aspects of the story, no place where a nod from the director could lead us to really experience the criminal mind. Rather, we watch three muscle heads bob around like bumping fools, planning and failing but then accidentally succeeding at theft and murder. In both real life and Bay-land, they get away with it until they don’t. Difference being that in the film, their behavior might be comparable to an Eddie Murphy film where there are 6 people at the dining table and Murphy plays each and everyone of them, (badly?).
So, while not a film to expect anything from, oddly, you may have more fun watching it that you expect. That’s a touchy line since scenes of severed hands being grilled refers to an actual event, and has not been thrown in because it was a good entertaining angle. The scene was a standout moment for me, as a neighbor waves hello in a seductively inviting way, and the man at the grill waves back with interest….while he’s grilling his victim’s hands. Everything about this film is a very smooth and glossy hand to making something that would like to be a very entertaining approach to showing criminals as inevitably idiotic characters who are painfully unaware of their own limitations. Burn After Reading does an excellent job of this, and Pain and Gain should have taken notes. That is because, truthfully, a Michael Bay film will always be a Michael Bay film, no matter how good the story is. Ultimately, its made to sell seats and nothing more. Unfortunately for us, ‘selling seats’, to Hollywood, must mean incredibly unwarranted homophobic jokes, big tittie bar scenes, and a lot of sex toy / ass slapping references but hey, if sex sells, who cares what the content is…right? If you want content, let’s just throw the real criminals mug shots up in the credits. Done and done.