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April 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Critics are split just about down the middle over Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain with some of them expressing their own mixed feelings about it. Slate critic Dana Stevens writes: “I’m still not sure whether to mildly like or mildly hate this movie.” Simon Abrams in the Chicago Sun-Times describes it “as ambitious and vibrant as it is ugly and scattershot.” And even A.O. Scott in the New York Times can’t seem to wrap his head around the movie. “It all leaves you pondering whether you have just seen a monumentally stupid movie or a brilliant movie about the nature and consequences of stupidity,” he writes. Clearly the film, based on a real-life crime drama, has its supporters among the critics. The New York Post‘s Kyle Smith, who acknowledges that he’s never been a fan of Michael Bay movies (“Bay puts the ow in loud, the sham in shameless and the bull in predictable”) remarks that Pain and Gain represents a turnaround for Bay, a film that is “fast, smart, wicked, sort of ambitious and blazingly ironic … and as hilarious as me on the bench press.” (In the movie, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Anthony Mackie play numbskull bodybuilders; Mark Wahlberg, a numbskull personal trainer.) The trio, writes Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times “are really thick in every sense of the word. It makes for some stupid/slap-shtick fun of the Stooges variety — that is, if Larry, Curly and Moe had been hunky gym rats engaged in illegal activity.” Likewise Rene Rodriguez in the Miami Herald writes that the three characters “would make the Three Stooges seem smart.” (He also applauds Bay for making Miami “look like a paradise.”) But David Hiltbrand in the Philadelphia Inquirer is one of several critics who point out that the film is based on a true incident in which a man was kidnapped, murdered, and his body dismembered. The film starts off with “considerable energy and wit,” Hiltbrand writes, but when the murder occurs, it amounts to an abrupt switch. Bay, he writes, “doesn’t seem to realize the film has gotten away from him. He’s still trying to maintain the same jaunty tone even after the content’s gone gruesome.” Rafer Guzmán in the New York Daily News reaches the same conclusion. “As the action grows rougher, bloodier, then downright ghastly, Bay maintains a broad-humored, wacky tone that begins to feel, as some real-life victims and their kin have complained, insensitive.” In the end, he says, “you may feel the grisly laughs sticking in your throat.”