This undated publicity photo released by Paramount Pictures shows, from left, Dwayne Johnson as Paul Doyle, Tony Shalhoub as Victor Kershaw and Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo, in the film, "Pain and Gain," directed by Michael Bay from Paramount Pictures. The film releases in theaters April 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Jaimie Trueblood)
There's a siege mentality about Michael Bay's movies, as though viewers are the enemy holed up in a bunker and he's the guy ordering heavy-metal music around-the-clock to wear down our morale and force us to surrender.
Bay's true-crime caper "Pain & Gain" lacks the visual-effects mayhem and sci-fi cacophony of his "Transformers" blockbusters, yet the movie uses all the shock and awe and noise and bluster the director has in his utterly unsubtle arsenal.
Unlike Bay's usual action nonsense, there's a story, screenplay, characters and wry mix of suspense and pitiable comedy to be had in the tale of three Florida bodybuilders who blunder through kidnapping schemes like the Three Stooges on steroids.
All but the faintest flashes of humanity and pathos are flattened by the cinematic cyclone that is Michael Bay. He drowns "Pain & Gain" in gimmick and style which, rather than gussying things up, dresses them down to make the movie even more ugly and sordid than it is on paper.
This undated publicity photo released by courtesy of Paramount Pictures shows, from left, Dwayne Johnson as Paul Doyle, Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo and Anthony Mackie as Adrian Doorbal in the film, "Pain and Gain," directed by Michael Bay from Paramount Pictures. The film releases in theaters April 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures)
That these three guys, played by Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie, are boobs and imbeciles, we get it from their actions. That what they do is reprehensible, that's clear to see. That the world as they view it is twisted and coarse, another given.
So why can't Bay set aside a few visual tricks and give us an occasional breather from the overload on screen? "Pain & Gain" is a two-hour onslaught of dizzy, drunken cuts, hot bodies in empty poises, shifting perspectives (with a babble of alternating character voice-overs to accompany) and often sickening images.
Example: Bay puts all of his technical know-how into a remarkably constructed shot of Tony Shalhoub, as the bodybuilders' first victim, spewing spit as he's Tasered. It's done in agonizing slow-motion and extreme close-up, huge bubbles of saliva erupting from Shalhoub's mouth.
An impressive bit of technical work that's just disgusting and unpleasant to watch. Despite the sheen of Bay's imagery, everything about "Pain & Gain" looks filthy and diseased.