This movie is all
and no gain. Soon after this movie began, I felt like a weight machine just knocked the air out of me at the gym, leaving me breathless. And this feeling just compounded throughout the overly long length of this extremely bad film.
I went to see this film solely because of the recent work of Mark Wahlberg. He has developed into a fine actor, who makes some pretty good films which benefit from his presence; his quiet intensity brings a certain amount of realism to the film and make them more watchable. He is also using his clout within Hollywood to produce some interesting, intriguing films, most notably “The Fighter” and well-regarded cable-fare like “Boardwalk Empire”. But even B movies like “Ted”, “Contraband” and “Broken City” are more watchable because of him. When I tell people I recently saw a Wahlberg film, they usually wrinkle their nose, and I find myself defending him, extolling the virtues of each of his films.
But that is ending as of today.
and Gain”, the new ‘comedy’ based on a true story from director Michael Bay (“Armageddon”, “Transformers 1 through the upcoming 4”) is mind-numbingly bad.
Bay is ridiculed for the films that made him famous, films like “The Rock”, “Armageddon”, “Transformers”, films in which special effects are more important than the actors, explosions are more commonplace than expository dialogue and an edit happens every two seconds. So it seems odd that he would take on the story of three bodybuilders who decide to extort a sleazy Florida businessman for everything he has. Odder yet, it is intended to be a comedy. On the surface, an explosion and car-chase- free film. But it should come as no surprise that Bay manages to work some of these elements into this story. Apparently, he was unable to cut the cord completely.
There are so, so many things wrong with
and Gain” it is difficult to point them all out. At one point, Danny Lugo (Wahlberg) tells his potential boss that he can bench-press 400 pounds. I’ll concentrate on four of the many bad things about this film, one for each 100 pounds Danny lifts. I know, random but lets go with it.
The most distracting thing is the constant shifting narration. From the moment the film begins, many characters narrate the film, telling us their thoughts, their histories, their motives. The film begins with Ed Harris addressing us, yet he isn’t in the film until about 45 minutes later. Then, we hear Mark Wahlberg. Then, Dwayne Johnson (as he prefers now, but he'll always be The Rock to us) before we go back to Wahlberg and so on. This is a filmmaking technique most commonly used in mysteries and sometimes dramatic stories when it is necessary to learn what a particular character is thinking. Generally, if narration is used, it is the voice of one character, a central character, designed to illuminate some difficult-to-illustrate emotion or problem. In
because the narration shifts back and forth, it isn’t clear what we are supposed to learn from it. Let’s face it, these characters are pretty stupid, which is part of the intended comedy, so the caper they try to pull off is not that complicated. It isn’t necessary to guide us through the ‘complicated’ narrative. If David Mamet were the writer and director of the film, the narration might be necessary and welcome, but this is not a David Mamet film. On so many levels.
The narration does nothing to establish a POV, something
could really use. Presumably, the POV should be Danny Lugo, and you would expect it to come from him. But because it shifts back and forth, the narration becomes
ful and distracts you from following his story. But he is who we should be following, so why do the shifting narration?
Stupid people aren’t funny simply because they are stupid. But in
that seems to be the conceit. The characters played by Wahlberg, The Rock, and to a lesser extent simply because he has less screen time, Anthony Mackie, are all dumb as door nails. Yet, nothing they do is funny. In fact, a lot of their actions are kind of horrible. Where are the laughs supposed to come from? This trio is supposed to be a newer generation Three Stooges. And the Stooges are pretty stupid as well. But their stuff is funny because it is elaborately choreographed slapstick. And while their actions caused pain,
for them, not others. In
the actions of these three bodybuilders cause
to others, somewhat horrible, never funny
Danny wants to kidnap one of his clients, a scuzzy local businessman (Tony Shaloub) and force him to sign over all of his money and property before they release him. The plan will work perfectly because they will wear masks and Danny has “seen a lot of movies”. Of course, the plan doesn’t go well and they have to make a lot of decisions on the fly, decisions which will not have the outcome they expect. A lot of people get hurt, some people die. It just isn’t funny.
But you also have to ask why Danny picks out this scuzzy businessman. Is it because he is annoying? Because he is, but Is that really enough reason to kidnap him and steal everything he has? If this is the sole reason, I can think of at least a dozen people that would be better targets. Heck, many of my readers probably would single me out on occasion. There isn’t enough motive for him to target this individual. And when the plan starts to go wrong, he certainly doesn’t deserve the treatment he receives.
Michael Bay is best known for his testosterone-fueled, male-heavy action films. He is also the director of “Bad Boys”, two films featuring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as cops in Miami who have to solve cases. These films are very similar and Bay clearly wants
to be a sort of “Bad Boys 3”; all three films are based in Miami, men drive expensive sports cars, the camera lingers on and fetishizes females in bathing suits, the landscape is colored by a hazy, deep sunset. But Wahlberg, The Rock and Mackie are not comedians and simply can’t extract anything out this material that is remotely funny.
The last problem with
the last one we will discuss anyway, is that there is simply no one in the story that is the least bit likable. Every single character is mean, stupid, looking out for themselves, violent, a criminal, stupid and mean. Yes, I know I repeated stupid and mean, but there are a lot of characters in the film who are both so it was worth mentioning a second time. Most films have to have at least one likable character, to allow us into the story and to become a part of the narrative. Without it, we stand back from the action, watching it with disinterested passion. Without this likable character, it is a bit like watching high schoolers putting on a bad play. Nothing connects.
There are a lot of problems with
Nothing works. The acting is atrocious. The story is alienating. The cinematography looks grubby. Bay seems like he would rather be directing an action film. The Rock’s performance is all over the place and unconvincing. And the list goes on.
and Gain” is just that. All
and no gain.
Hopefully, if you get nothing else from this review, you will realize that watching this film is just a…