Leave it to Michael Bay to spend $26 million making a low-budget comedy. If that sounds like a robust price tag for "Pain & Gain," his new true-crime-inspired tale about three Miami gym rats who kidnap and extort a wealthy sandwich shop owner, consider that Bay is the director of such pricey special-effects-laden blockbusters as "Armageddon" and the
But while "Pain & Gain" should earn a healthy return on the investment — it's expected to debut at No. 1 at the box office this weekend, to the tune of $23 million — the film is faring poorly with movie critics, most of whom find it shiny on the surface but hollow underneath.
In one of the more positive (but still mixed) reviews, The Times' Betsy Sharkey says the setup "makes for some stupid/slap-shtick fun of the Stooges variety," and the script is "bad to the bone with mixed results."
In the lead role,
A.O. Scott gives "Pain & Gain" an ambivalent review in the
Ty Burr of the
Like Scott in the New York Times, Slate's Dana Stevens is somewhat equivocal. "I'm still not sure whether to mildly like or mildly hate this movie," she writes. "Pain & Gain," she says, is "a deeply cynical film — and yet, at the same time, a weirdly playful one, with a manic, reckless energy and vulgar humor that it's hard not to respond to. In the last half especially, it's as if Bay is deliberately driving character development, narrative coherence, and tonal consistency off a cliff just to stand by and laugh maniacally as the debris and carnage come hurtling down."
Perhaps Stevens shouldn't sound too surprised. Even at the bargain price of $26 million, debris and carnage are what Michael Bay movies are all about.