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Sunday, March 10, 2013

PAIN & GAIN: Wait . . . Am I Actually Excited about a Michael Bay Movie?

From The South:

Director Michael Bay catches a lot of shit from movie critics and bloggers like me (and deservedly so, for the most part). He's brash, over-the-top, predictable, and often sacrifices story/characters for big effects and easy thrills. He has even been accused of stealing shots and ideas from other filmmakers.


But the fact of the matter is that his movies make a lot of money – and I mean A LOT OF MONEY. That is what Bay is: a big-time action, music-video style, popcorn movie kind of filmmaker, and he seems more than happy to fill that role. He likes guns, explosions, hot girls, and car chases . . . well damn, sometimes I like those things in a movie too. And while his movies are mostly mindless entertainment, there are worse ways I could spend two hours.
And maybe it’s me getting older or getting wiser (film-wise at least) but his earlier movies were (and still are) more enjoyable – I still really enjoy the first Bad Boys, Armageddon, the first Transformers, and even The Rock (on the other hand, Pearl Harbor, The Island, Bad Boys II, Transformers 2 are all certifiable shit, no doubt). Sure, even his best does not amount to very high cinematic standards, but sometimes it is nice to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

You just have to know what to expect from a Michael Bay film – try to make it out to be something more than it is and you will be disappointed. And when he tries to take on something that is clearly out of his comfort zone – such as the ethics-exploring sci-fi of The Island or a war drama like Pearl Harbor – he fails spectacularly. It is like Hollywood, especially with the Transformers franchise, has given him too many toys to play with (pun intended). Bigger does not always mean better.
So it was interesting to hear, while doing press rounds for the last Transformers, Bay’s desire to dial it back for a while and concentrate on smaller-scaled films. Last year, he described an in-the-works character-driven, “Pulp Fiction-like project” with a relatively small budget of $20 million (compared to the almost $200 million average for each of the Transformers that's miniscule).
Now I am not totally sure about the comparisons to Pulp Fiction, but the resultant film is Pain & Gain, due out in theaters in April. Pain & Gain follows a trio of bodybuilders in Florida who get caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, and Tony Shaloub.

And guess what? It actually looks pretty good, right? It still has lots of trademark Bay-isms, but he definitely tones it down. It looks like an interesting and entertaining story with some humor and action, plus more-than-appropriate roles for Wahlberg and The Rock (who are both so often miscast, but seem to get it right here).

But do not expect this newfound Michael Bay-appreciation to last, he is already hard at work on Transformers 4 (and apparently Bad Boys 3 too). So we will see how Pain & Gain really goes before we give him too much credit.
So in closing, I leave you with my rankings for all of Michael Bay's films, and expect my partner Dan to add his list soon.

Ranking Michael Bay Films:
  1. Bad Boys
  2. Armageddon
  3. Transformers
  4. The Rock
  5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  6. The Island
  7. Pearl Harbor
  8. Bad Boys II
  9. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen


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