Pain and Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)

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wigwam
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Re: The Films of 2013

#1 Post by wigwam » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:22 pm

Pain & Gain is top of the line, primo craftsmanship (albeit derivative of Tony Scott as Bad Boys and pretty much all of Bay's stuff is, but "steal from the best" as they say) and the sheen and clarity of the colors popping and the dutchangles locking aren't just eye candy but visual crackrock and the editing is both breakneck and nano-precise in ways that few movies (successfully) are. The humor, characterwork and performances are hilarious and intoxicating and career-bests for most involved (not that there's much competition in certain cases, but Whalberg's career-making intensity from Fear and career-solidifying humor from later works are synthesized here to an awe-inspiring degree). There is a shot where The Rock is in a strip club, staring stonefaced in a non-reaction to something his character doesn't understand, and the staccato lights and their oscillating colors ricocheting off his bald head is some of the finest cinema pur since ...well To the Wonder the other night, or Spring Breakers weeks ago (I actually prefer this club scene to those of Spring Breakers who were sorta sub-Hype Williams to me), and while in reference/association mode I should also own up to feeling echos of GoodFellas, Boogie Nights and Badlands at different points in the 2nd half of the movie (when the cocaine and high-living get going; naturally my favorite part of the film).

The reality of the source material fluctuates in relevance and believability countless times throughout the movie, and the coda showing real pictures of the individuals did import some gravitas to what had only been levity or entertaining suspense, but even without such a device, the choices and scope Bay works with here are so impressive, effective and admirable, on their own but especially in context with his past "sins" if you will (and you will): the best moment for me was a climactic moment articulating the realness of the situation with a single drop of blood bouncing onto an apron, a moment so thrilling, gutpunching, darkly hilarious and just plain cool in ways that all the Decepticons punching all the CGIscrapers in all the Digiopolises never ever were, could or will be.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2013

#2 Post by knives » Sat Apr 27, 2013 2:20 pm

I've been interested in the film for awhile (and the choice to make it a Coen's ripoff seems like the only logical one), but given certain of Bay's tendencies I'vebeen worried about how he deals with the evil of what these guy's did. I'm not necessarily asking if he handled it with sensitivity, but is there any of that Fargo depth present?

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flyonthewall2983
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Pain and Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)

#3 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sat May 04, 2013 4:34 pm

I loved it. I've really just seen The Rock and Armageddon and bits and pieces of other stuff too, but this to me is far and away his best. It's drenched in the things that have been his calling cards, but replacing firepower and CGI robots with character depth and story. wigwam hits on it all, but it's very funny too. It's a bit of a 180 from the "humor" of the Bruckheimer films, which felt a bit stifling compared to the rest of it.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2013

#4 Post by knives » Mon May 27, 2013 2:09 am

Pain and Gain is easily Bay's career best and not even just in the very fun way that previous 'record' holder was. This is a very snappy well crafted piece of work that was surprisingly genius. I suspect this unexpected intelligence is in part a result of Bay ignoring everything outside of his world. The film takes a very conservative view, but what makes it palpable without asterisks in the way John Milius tends to be is that it's sights are also against conservatism which makes a fascinating series of splits that horrifically culminates with the second kidnapping incident. Naturally Ed Harris' PI is the emblem of good conservative with Bay coming from a hard working professional life with wife and even cherry pie. On the other end surprisingly is the idiot trio who largely appear as a perverse horror mirror to the good. Every other character falls in between. This occasionally leads to weird things such as Shalhoub's moment of catharsis which is also the most fictionalized moment of the movie.

The film is also really interesting on that note as it's final act of fictionalization stands in stark contrast to Argo's similar pile of lies. Part of what makes Bay's fictions more acceptable, at least to me, is in two parts. Firstly the Bay style with the bonus of weird meta-textual gags heightens the movie to where things seem oddly academic with Bay joking about what is true and what is made up. It gets to a point where the horrors stand so in contrast to the tone of the picture that Bay stops the momentum to highlight how this is true to the original article which only works to confuse the tone more fully. The second reason is almost against the Bay style completely, but Bay's fictionalization does not sensationalize to excite in the the way that Affleck so poorly did. Instead it is another tactic to confuse the emotional sense of the film as it comes to and through a character who's primary characterization is as an asshole who is told straight to his face that he is the worst by Harris. Bay does a little bit of softening to him in these final moments (both fictionalized) and leaves out the original story's big twist, but the characterization is so hard against him everywhere else that it has only an affect for thought rather than emotion for me. I know Bay will always be a hard sale on this site, but I really hope everyone gives this film just one shot.

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: The Films of 2013

#5 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Mon May 27, 2013 7:08 pm

knives wrote:I know Bay will always be a hard sale on this site, but I really hope everyone gives this film just one shot.
Agreed. The negative reviews I have read are from people pretty convinced he can only do bad work. They can't see the forest from the trees. It's a smart story about stupid decisions made by men equal in proportion to that.

And I'll just come out and say that I would love to see Criterion pick this up.

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domino harvey
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Re: Pain and Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)

#6 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 05, 2013 5:27 pm

I'm tempted to invoke the Mean Girls meme and suggest others stop trying to make this movie happen! While I was never bored, this struck me as little more than alternately a bad Coens ripoff and, more prominently in the third act, yet another in the long line of post-Tarantino violence comedies which peaked around the time this film was allegedly set (though why set the film in 1995 and then do absolutely nothing with that? This film plays so fast and loose with the true events at the heart of it that the setting is not part of any fidelity to the source!). I didn't find anything about this funny, especially not when it goes into Very Bad Things territory in its second half, and as social criticism it's even less convincing: like the other riders on post-QT waves, the film openly sides with its negative central characters, offering only the repeated chiding of "Look at these dumb fucks," &c. True, they are dumb, but note how intent the film is that we follow their journey, and making sure their initial victim is as repulsive as possible so as to make it easier to side with them. To be clear, I don't object to the film taking their side, I just don't think the film can survive being an effective work of satire or class commentary at the same time (you can't claim to criticize the central characters and/or what they represent when you're so in love with 'em), and the whole endeavor becomes one big "So what."

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knives
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Re: Pain and Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)

#7 Post by knives » Thu Dec 05, 2013 5:35 pm

I think your criticism about siding would only work if it didn't so thoroughly spend the second half making us side with the victim to the point of inventing a catharsis with him. While initially the dumb fuck point of view might be the more compelling one as the movie goes along it at least tries to show how their philosophy is absolutely repugnant and not just stupidly represented while the victim gets ennobled (the bit about the food) so that while the film never sides with him it at least develops a respect for him.

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swo17
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Re: Pain and Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)

#8 Post by swo17 » Thu Dec 05, 2013 5:41 pm

Don't forget that, given the true life ending of the story, the movie could have really stuck it to Shalhoub's character in the end if it had wanted to.

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domino harvey
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Re: Pain and Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)

#9 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 05, 2013 5:42 pm

SpoilerShow
Does it though? It may shift further into black humor starting with the first attempted murder and then culminating in all clusterfuck stuff in the last thirty minutes (the chainsaw exchange at Home Depot, BBQ-ing hands, &c) but the narrative is still in their corner. I don't think the tide ever turns towards Shaloub's character, and indeed only Ed Harris comes off well for having begrudging faith in him in the first place. When the film pulls its last minute reversal and ends with Harris lamenting on how great the simple things are, it's like I accidentally switched channels onto another movie (It's also the same basic ending of Fargo-- "And here you are. And it's a beautiful day"...)

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knives
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Re: Pain and Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)

#10 Post by knives » Thu Dec 05, 2013 6:01 pm

I honestly don't see how the narrative is still in their corner beyond staying in their POV generally though, and I'm sure you agree, POV is different from being sympathetic with. I also have to disagree about Harris who I think the film is absolutely in love with and does everything in its power to make seem like the perfect American which I suppose is less fun than the three idiots, but that's a different argument. That faith in Shaloub seems a bit of characterization of how Harris is the good guy. Actually I have to strongly agree with your Fargo comparison, though probably not in the way you intended. Like that film for the first half of the movie we're stuck with the villains when the hero of the piece doesn't appear until the midway point. Harris definitely is playing Marge exactly (which I suppose might just feed into your other complaint, but I don't necessarily disagree with that).

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tenia
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Re: Pain and Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)

#11 Post by tenia » Thu Mar 31, 2016 12:29 pm

Cross-topic cross-website : was just discussing Pain & Gain on a French forum, ended up on the 2010-2014 list discussion here, and finally in this very thread.

I second knives on Pain & Gain, which really struck me as a weird-funny-scary surprise. I really didn't expect this from a Bay movie, but it actually is a very slick multi-layered parable around a greedy perverted American dream of a bunch of stupid amateurs who might actually deserve getting laughed at their faces.

It also has a ton of visual symbols, some obvious (Wahlberg doing crunches on the big advertising billboard, looking either as a full-bodied muscle, or a full-bodied dick getting hard ("Get hard ! I'll make you Kobe beef !") and soft and hard again (linking also to the Mickie character who takes shots to get pumped-up muscles, but also to, well, get hard).


It's kind of Bay's Fight Club, a stupid superficial movie about stupid superficial people, which actually has much more irony and cynicism to offer than what it seems at first glance. It has the looks (the photography is marvelous at making some shots looking like advertisments for barbecues, and muscle cars, and lawn-mowers, and big houses), it has the background themes (religion, redemption, the Rockefeller American Dream), but ultimately, don't worry : even if these guys go to jail and get death-sentenced (IRL, the judge who heard the case is... Judge Alex. Of course.), there are plenty of others who don't care and still want to believe they can succeed.

That's the American dream.

For those interested / who can read French, a French forumer analysed many visual aspects of the movie :
http://totichoux.informe.com/forum/cine ... 23-70.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://totichoux.informe.com/forum/cine ... 23-80.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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