Film Reviews – Pain & Gain, Now You See Me.

Pain & Gain.

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Pain and Gain marks the tenth effort for Michael Bay in the director’s chair.

He’s already experienced plenty of pain – from critics, in return for a mountain of gain  – from the box office, where his track record is well into the black.

Bad Boys 1 & 2, Transformers 1, 2 & 3, and Armageddon established him as the go-to big budget action director with over four billion dollars gross worldwide to his credit, with flops Pearl Harbour & The Island against his name.

Bay’s first feature Bad Boys was shot in Miami and turned Will Smith into big business at the box office.

Bay returns to the Magic City to direct Mark Wahlberg (who’ll star in Transformers 4) and Dwayne Johnson – aka The Rock – coincidentally the name of the only film of Bay’s to score a positive on the Rotten Tomatoes website – it was on 7 last night….      So are his films really that bad?

It all depends on what you like to see on a screen, but the story behind Pain & Gain is so out there, that somehow Bay seems a good choice to tell it.

Based on three epic newspaper articles that detailed the crimes of the so-called Sun Gym Gang, who operated in Miami between 1994 and 1995, their exploits were so utterly hopeless, that it’s difficult to believe they are true.

In a nutshell, Gym manager Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) convinces himself and two bodybuilding mates Paul Doyle (Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (played by Anthony Mackie – Hurt Locker) to take part in a kidnap for profit scheme.

Designed to net the gang over a million dollars by abducting and roughing up a local businessman to convince him to hand over his wealth, the hapless trio are so bad at what they do that after numerous false starts, the 24 hour abduction drags on for over a month, and after getting all the signatures they need, the victim lives despite the gang’s best efforts to kill him.

The facts of the case, many of which form the foundation of the film’s plot are so over the top as to be comical, albeit in the blackest possible way, and that is what Bay aims for, and achieves, on for him the super low budget of 25 mil.

Johnson steals the movie as the born again gym junkie crook that falls off the rails, and it’s testament to his nerve and Bay’s guidance that he went through with making the movie after trying to pull out a week before principle shooting commenced.

Ed Harris is rock solid as the private investigator that helped put the gang behind bars, only after they claimed another two victims.

Like enjoying a great hair metal band, this one was a guilty pleasure – a 4 star for me.

Now You See Me.

With ingredients including the delicious Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Ruffalo, it would be hard to believe the final dish lacks the flavour promised by the recipe.

But sadly Now You See Me is a glossy Hollywood con.

It’s amazing how differently people can feel about the same piece of art whether it’s music, a painting or in this case a movie, which exhilarated others whilst it left me deflated.

I wanted this to be great, and it had some excellent elements including the cast and the visual effects, however the cast felt overshadowed by the razzle dazzle of the visual effects and they felt very 2 dimensional to me.

If you want a really good film about magic and illusion, that also has Michael Caine in it, then you can’t go past Christopher Nolan’s triumphant ‘The Prestige”. Complete with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman at their best as rival showmen, even David Bowie makes an appearance and it’s a damn sight more memorable than Now You See Me.

3 Stars.

Seeing as we had some serious Jackasses in Pain & Gain, I needed some light relief jackasses –

Something that I had to share after seeing the trailer this week is the upcoming flick from Jackass Supremo Johnny Knoxville,

He’ll take over the big screen in November as Irving Zissman, aka Bad Grandpa, cruising the countryside with his grandson – the little dude from Fun Size – check this out….

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