I remember in high school at basketball practice, hearing the wrestling coach yell at his team “No pain, no gain!” If that phrase is true, I must’ve gained a lot watching this movie because it was painful. And that’s a shame, because the trailers were fun.
When I saw this at CinemaCon in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, I was supposed to do an interview with MichaelBay before it started. It ended up not happening, but after the movie I saw him standing alone. I approached to get a few quotes. He smiled, I nodded, and at that point I realized something. I was probably going to go into a tirade about how awful his movies are. I walked away without doing the interview. My only hope is that movie goers will walk away before buying tickets to this. I have no doubt it’s going to be the big money maker this weekend. The best quote I saw online was from critic Stephen Silver who wrote, “This is a movie made by a**holes, about a**holes, for a**holes. If you’re an a**hole, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it.”
I thought about calling this movie “Dirk Diggler on steroids,” but the problem with that is Mark Wahlberg looks bulkier, but not like a steroid freak. It would also mistakenly have people believe it’s as good as Boogie Nights. Since that’s one of the best movies of the ‘90s, and this is one of the worst of this year, I opted to use that statement but with an explanation.
This is such an intriguing premise for a movie, especially because the story really happened. You can make a comedy with dark subject matter like, just look at a few Coen brothers films. It might be more interesting to seek out the original newspaper articles from the Miami New Times about these criminals from a bodybuilding gym that decide to kidnap a rich client (Tony Shalhoub). They force him to sign over all his assets. There’s a lot of humor that can be harvested from such a group of dumbbells, but it really only gets laughs from Rob Corddry and Ken Jeong. Just seeing their faces on screen elicits a smile. When Jeong does the angry motivational speaker, and we watch as Wahlberg is mesmerized, it’s funny; especially since they’ve established Wahlberg as a dope that idolizes Scarface.
Dwayne Johnson is okay as a recovering alcoholic and born-again Christian. Anthony Mackie plays a steroid user that only seems to have one part of his body affected by the drug. That leads to several unfunny scenes with his love interest – Rebel Wilson.
Fat-girl jokes and making fun of “midgets” could be funny if done properly. Here they weren’t. Throw in torture scenes that were rather disturbing, and the whole picture becomes a big mess. It’s a mean-spirited affair that I can’t see anybody enjoying (see earlier Stephen Silver quote).
At just over two hours, the meandering narrative will make you wish some of those weights would’ve been dropped on the directors head instead of a rich, potential investor. Quentin Tarantino could’ve shown them how to clean up that dead body before the nurse working the night shift came home. Remember how funny and interesting that scene was in Pulp Fiction? Yet movies like Pulp Fiction, Fargo, and Burn After Reading can jump from brutal crimes to dark comedy without missing a beat. Bay isn’t able to pull off a rhythm that works. I’m not even sure why anybody would laugh while Johnson grills hands on the BBQ to get rid of evidence. And how in the world is anybody going to believe they’d take a chainsaw back to Home Deport without looking to see human hair and blood all over the thing?
Ed Harris is solid as the private investigator Shalhoub brings in, but it made me wonder why it would’ve been so hard for the police to believe this happened. It’s a similar complaint I had with Identity Thief. The cops in that were acting like they had never heard of an identity being taken from a stolen credit card. Now, comparing this piece of garbage to that makes a lot more sense than Tarantino and Coen films.
The whole thing is a misogynistic mess. That doesn’t mean I didn’t occasionally laugh. Wahlberg claiming to be a “do-er, not a don’t-er,” or yelling “I can deal with your impotence, but not his incompetence!”
MichaelBay recently apologized for the movie Armageddon. That’s nice, but where is the apology for his entire catalog of films: The Island, Transformers, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys…and now this.
I’m giving it 1 ½ stars out of 5.