Reel Critics: No gain from watching this 'Pain'

"Pain & Gain" is loosely based on a true story of bodybuilders gone wild on steroids and cocaine. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie play the buffed anti-heroes who embark on a bizarre plot of kidnapping for ransom. Operating in the dark recesses of Miami society, they target unsavory wealthy victims with gruesome purpose and consequences.

The resulting carnage is as bloody as any Quentin Tarantino film. It's full of crazy violence and bizarre plot twists. The relentlessly profane yet snappy dialogue strives for the dark humor of the Coen Brothers. But it's so crude, crass and nasty that genteel viewers will walk out before the worst comes to pass.

Director Michael Bay is known for his exceedingly loud and obnoxious action films like "Transformers" and "Bad Boys." This strange caper flick is so over-the-top it recalls the "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" films that Bay also produced over the years. If more than two hours of nonstop violence, madness and profanity is your cup of tea, this movie is for you. But not for me.


Good cinema, thy name is 'Mud'

"Mud" is an enjoyably lazy adventure of two small town Arkansas boys living on the Mississippi River.

Matthew McConaughey shines in one of his best screen roles to date. From "The Lincoln Lawyer" to "Killer Joe," "The Paperboy" and even "Magic Mike," his acting talents are clearly more interesting when he uses that killer smile and Southern drawl in playing bad boys.

Ellis and Neckbone are 14 going on 30 — boyish enough to get a kick out of finding a boat stuck high up in a tree, but grownup by virtue of their hardscrabble life. Ellis' parents are struggling in their marriage, and Neckbone lives with a philandering uncle.

To their surprise, a wild-haired, crazy looking guy named Mud (McConaughey) is living in that boat. Ellis is drawn to Mud when he learns the man is in town to meet up with his true love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).

Mud is also hiding out from some bad guys and explains that his gun and his shirt are his only protection from them. The boys are soon getting him supplies and delivering messages to Juniper, unaware of the very real dangers they're getting themselves into.

As played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, Ellis and Neckbone are terrific and indeed carry much of the film. A fine cast of supporting characters — Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon and Ray McKinnon, to name a few — add to the little mysteries and bits of humor that abound.

And yes, ladies, McConaughey does manage to take off that magic shirt. Enjoy.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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