One Big Scene is a weekly column dedicated to spectacular visual sequences we’re recommending you see in the theater. If you have ones you’d like us to write about, let us know in the comments section.
Michael Bay has been hinting that his latest, Pain & Gain, is something different. Given the fact that it has no Autobots or Decepticons, it’s easy to believe him.
But what the director means (I believe, at least) is that Gain has more of a focus on character – and less of a focus on eye-popping visual sequences – as Bay’s last three films, all of which have the word “Transformers” in the title. Yet even though Gain does dial it back a bit from the normal spectacle of a trademark Bay film, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t boast several of the director’s usual visual gimmickry – with a lot of it jammed into one scene in particular. We’ll explain below, but first, the latest Pain & Gain reviews!
What Critics are Saying:
“With Pain & Gain, his surprising true-crime comedy, Bay has finally decided to lighten up a bit.”
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
“Pain & Gain is Bay's best film, but we're judging on a curve that includes a talking big rig lecturing audiences about human rights and two Miami cops invading Cuba, so that's ultimately not saying much.”
James Rocchi, GeekNation
“This is easily Bay's best movie, the work of a filmmaker with a cracked sense of humor that he is able to share with the audience.”
Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
Bay isn’t trying to steal a piece of the comedy pie often shared by The Farrelly Brothers, Judd Apatow or Adam McKay. And while there is a lot of disturbing humor sprinkled through Pain & Gain, there’s plenty of Bay’s characteristic bombast to please fans who have supported the director’s filmography.
A lot of it congeals in a chaotic scene late in the film that I have to sort of dance around to avoid spoilers. Here’s what I can tell you: The criminal bodybuilders played by Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie aren’t content with the first crime they pulled off. They need more money, and they zero in on a new target. Mackie and Johnson are trying to distract a distraught woman while Wahlberg’s character … let’s say “negotiates.” And in an effort to ramp up the tension, Bay aims for the surreal. Johnson starts a push-ups contest. Mackie cranks up some C + C Music Factory on a nearby stereo system. And Bay puts his camera on a swivel, spinning in circles as it captures our three amateurs while they bugle yet another half-cocked scheme.
It isn’t the equivalent of a spacecraft landing on the surface of an asteroid, or the highway chase in Bad Boys II that had Will Smith and Martin Lawrence dodging falling automobiles. But it was energetic and shocking, elevated by Bay’s unique visual storytelling, and it had my preview audience on the edges of their seats. It’s this week’s One Big Scene.