PAIN AND GAIN (Michael Bay, 2013)
Michael Bay is back in Miami, and we love him when his setting is in Miami. BAD BOYS and BAD BOYS 2 remind us that a genuine filmmaker is somewhere inside Michael Bay, enough to forget that he wasted our money and intellect with the TRANSFORMERS sequels.
Bay shoots Miami beautifully, with his aerial shots and his panoramic sweep of the skyline just before dawn. Watching PAIN AND GAIN reminded me a lot of BAD BOYS (BAD BOYS is one of the best action flicks out there), what with the language, the humor, the editing, and the attitude.
Okay, so Bay is known for excessive everything- too much violence, stylized shots, scoring, you name it. In PAIN AND GAIN there is an excess of exposition during the first half of the movie that the pacing drags like a math problem. But the speed picks up once things spiral out of control.
I did not expect the film to be this wild, and the characters, despite the jokes are surprisingly dark and demented, okay maybe just Mark Wahlberg's character.
Dwayne Johnson on the other hand, plays a coke addict with minuscule brains devilishly well. To see "The Rock" so beefed up, smashing people's faces and screw up almost every single time is hysterical.
Anthony Mackie is crazy funny too, sort of a reincarnation of Will Smith's and Marcus Lawrence's characters in BAD BOYS fused together.
And the ninja and alien costumes were indeed a nice touch. (see for yourself)
PAIN AND GAIN navigates the subjects of greed and narcissism, but in the end it all boils down to ego. Ego is what drove these guys to hatch a high risk and highly-insane extortion scheme. Like the teens in THE BLING RING, they were stupid enough to flash their newly-acquired wealth in public. And this was back in 1994.
This is a true story, as what the filmmakers tell us, despite the existence of a lot of bizarre sequences, and of which Dwayne Johnson having a barbecue tops my list of favorite moments of ridiculousness.
The film's second half deviates dramatically in tone, and while there is still humor present (shopping for a kill at your local hardware, anyone?) we are forced to examine the lives of the three ambitious crooks and judge the weight of their actions. Tony Shalhoub as the guy they almost beat to death is annoying to the nth level, but as the story progresses, we root for him. Ed Harris is always authentic as the conscience character, as the ex-cop turned private eye determined to hunt down Wahlberg and co.
I just wished Bay did not bombard the screen with so many insanity that the obvious downside is we tend to ignore the seriousness of the extortionists' actions. But if his intention is to portray the whole caper as an enormous farce with a plan destined to fail, then he succeeded.