Michael Bay has never given the impression of being a filmmaker particularly interested in irony. His bombastic oeuvre features all the self-awareness of your average shower mat. But now we have Pain & Gain, a scabrous satirical swipe at not only the knuckle-headed machismo the director seems so enthralled by, but also at an America crippled by consumerism. He even takes a swipe at his own back catalogue.
Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie are excellent in this real-life story of a trio of bodybuilders who kidnapped and extorted a Miami businessman (Tony Shalhoub) in search of their own American Dream: pots of cash. This violent, ill-fated criminal enterprise is presented with such over-the-top Bayness that one can’t help but smile. Super slow motion, an excruciatingly lurid colour scheme and a plethora of those trademark 360 degree pans all but wink; while the jet-black, perfectly absurd script recalls the Coens at their most vicious. Is this a bold new direction, or is something more distressing afoot… could Bay have been kiddin’ us on all along? [Chris Fyvie]