Monday, May 19, 2014

Pain & Gain

Father, forgive me.

How long has it been since your last confession?

December 20th last year, when I reviewed ‘Zombie Strippers’ for Winter of Discontent.

Tsk, tsk. And what have you done this time? 

Father, I find myself in the awkward position of having enjoyed a Michael Bay film.

And this is the first time you’ve felt this way. 

Well, there was ‘The Island’, Father, but that was more to do with lustful thoughts about Scarlett Johannson.

Ah, fine figure of a woman. And what temptress beguiled you in this one?  

Uh, Mark Wahlberg.

Ah, for shame, lad! Fancying a member of the same sex who isn’t a choirboy! 

Ah, but he gives a cracking comic turn, Father. 

Are you taking the piss out of my accent? 

Sorry, Father. 

Sorry, my cassock! You’re on a dozen Hail Marys already. Now tell me about the sinful fillum that you watched. And the next feckin’ line of dialogue you type for me had better not have “fillum” in it. Or “feckin’.” 

Sorry, Father. 

You will be. Now tell me about this sinful film. 

Well, Father it’s based on a true story and it earned brownie points right at the start for saying “unfortunately this is based on a true story”. Kind of satirised the whole pompous tendency in mainstream cinema to parade a “based on a true story” tag as if that automatically grants it special privileges. 

What’s that you say? Satire in a Michael Bay film? 

Actually, yes, Father. There’s some fine – if unsubtle – bits of comedy. Particularly a wonderful bit of slo-mo that gloriously punctures the “cool guys don’t look at explosions” iconography that Bay did so much to define in his earlier films.

The early, more explode-y ones. 

Yes, those. Nice Woody Allen reference, by the way. 

What are you trying to say? 

Uh, nothing, Father. Nothing at all. 

So, this sinful movie, what’s it about? 

Mark Wahlberg plays a trainer at a gym who spends his days envying wealthy male clients and lusting after statuesque female clients. He attends a motivational seminar and decides to embrace the whole “three step plan” ideology. Only his plan involves kidnapping, torture, extortion and finally murder. 

Set at the time of the Inquisition, you say? 

Uh, set in the 90s, Father. 

And the difference is? 

More cocaine and sports cars in the 90s, Father. 


So Wahlberg ropes in a fellow trainer (Anthony Mackie) and an ex-con (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) and they kidnap a Jewish millionaire (Tony Shalhoub) and beat the shit out of him – 

And this is available on rental, is it? 

Yes, Father. So they beat the shit out of him and get him to sign away all his worldly goods and eventually they leave him for dead. But not before royally fucking up any number of kidnap schemes and making an equally cack-handed hash of putting the frighteners on him. The gang’s sheer ineptitude is milked for all it’s worth and makes for some genuinely hilarious moments. In fact, Bay’s capacity for vulgar comedy suggests that with this material he may have found his metier: larger-than-life absurdity suits him well. 

What of the performances? 

Wahlberg’s in his element. He’s never more entertaining than when he plays a total douche. The Rock’s talent for self-deprecatory comedy, obvious from as far back as ‘Be Cool’, sees him on form and then some. Mackie, between this and ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, is emerging as one of my favourite men of the moment. Shalhoub delivers the fast-talking abrasive shtick he does so well. Meanwhile, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry and Rebel Wilson are all memorable for different reasons. 

And it contains violence, does it? 

It’s a Michael Bay film, Father. But it doesn’t feature robots taking a piss. 

In that case, you’re forgiven. 

Thank you, Father. 

When’s this year’s Winter of Discontent? 

Starts November, Father. 

I’ll see you then.

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