Wait, a good Michael Bay movie?! Well, if it helps any, I'm pretty sure it was an accident.
Also up at Channel 24.
Based on a true story, a trio of
bodybuilders try to live their own version of the American Dream by
kidnapping and extorting a thoroughly unpleasant but very wealthy
Florida high roller but, having0 spent significantly less time
perfecting their brains than their muscles, things start to go very
wrong, very quickly.
What we thought
Pain and Gain tells an incredible true
story – the kind that is so unbelievably far fetched and
unbelievable that it could only be true – that, had it been tackled
by mega-talented filmmakers like the Coen Brothers or Martin
Scorsese, would have easily been one of the best films of the year.
In the hands of Michael Bay though, it becomes rather less great,
instead turning into something far more interesting and far more
Michael Bay, you see, is easily one of
the most reviled filmmakers in Hollywood today and can justifiably be
called the embodiment of all that is wrong with the Great Hollywood
Machine. When he's not producing horrible, pointless remakes of
horror classics, he spends much of his time directing horribly
crafted, obnoxious garbage like the Transformers films or Pearl
Harbour or taking the rather good, if unoriginal, premise of The
Island and running it into the ground with his typically noxious
cocktail of monotonous action scenes, crappy storytelling and a rank,
fratboy-like inability to tell the difference between sexiness and
crass sexual objectification.
Considering his past crimes, it's hard
to give him the benefit of the doubt that the sharp satire and
surprising inventiveness of Pain and Gain were actually done on
purpose but, frankly, the idea that he accidentally stumbled on a
script and a subject matter that actually puts his many horrible
“artistic” tendencies to good use would go some way to explaining
why Pain and Gain is one of the year's most intriguing and surprising
Take, for example, Bay's tendency to
leeringly fetishize the physical aspects of his films - be they shiny
cars, giant robots or women' bottoms. It's a tendency that is grossly
misplaced in a franchise based on children's toys (Transformers), in
an epic romance based on a very dark hour in American history (Pearl
Harbour) or even in a dopey buddy-cop flick (Bad Boys II), but it's
absolutely perfect for the hedonistic Pain and Gain.
The characters in Pain and Gain
worship at the alter of physical perfection and see sculpting their
own “perfect” bodies as being a basic extension of everything
that the American dream represents and no filmmaker is better suited
to capturing exactly that superficiality and raw physicality better
than Michael Bay. Even more fittingly, these bodybuilders' own take
on physical beauty – that of steroid-induced, almost comically
muscular men, and women who basically look like not particularly
authentic blow up dolls – is a perfect match for the physical
grotesqueness of Bay's own sensibilities.
Then, of course, there's Bay's utter
inability to create sympathetic characters in his films and, again,
that's perfect as the characters in Pain and Gain need to be, by the
very nature of this being a true story about some seriously violent
criminal acts, people we laugh at, rather than with.
The film might have elements of a
crime drama and an action film but it is, when you get right down to
it, a pitch black comedy, which feeds off both the unpleasantness of
Bay's filmmaking on the one hand and a very funny, very sharp script
and pretty killer comedy performances on the other (Dwayne Johnson,
in particular, is just spectacular here). Also, because I am still
not convinced that Bay is actually in on the joke, the film's many,
many ironies only become all the more delicious.
It's not for the faint of heart or the
weak of stomach but Pain and Gain is a thoroughly distasteful delight
and one that is especially sure to tickle those of us who are
familiar with Bay's body of work.