Friday Flicks: ‘Pain & Gain’: Is Director Michael Bay Going Back to Film School?

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this weekend.

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Kevin Winter / Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures Chairman & CEO Brad Grey, actor Mark Wahlberg, and director Michael Bay arrive at the premiere of Paramount Pictures' "Pain & Gain" at TCL Chinese Theatre on April 22, 2013 in Hollywood, California.

Pain & Gain

Tagline: Their American Dream Is Bigger Than Yours

Most filmmakers, you’d imagine, would consider a budget in the ballpark of $26 million a pretty decent amount of money when it comes to making a movie. But Michael Bay is not most film makers.

And the latest addition to the 48-year-old’s oeuvre is a far cry from the reported $200 million his last Transformers flick cost. But as Bay explained to the New York Times recently, when it came to Pain & Gain, “I wanted to do something small, just actors acting. It was almost like film school again for me.”

Shot in 42 days, this “small” action comedy stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie and is based on the true story of some personal trainers who got caught up with some crooks in 1990s Miami.

Unfortunately for Bay, critics are seeing more pain than gain. “A ham-fisted, thick-skulled comic caper about bodybuilders-turned-criminals which, like its three protagonists, fully lives down to its own potential,” slams the Hollywood Reporter. “Bay can be a master of exuberant chaos, but here the violence mostly lands with a sickening thud, which is fitting, one supposes, but also ultimately numbing,” points out Variety. But Movie Nation offers a mildly positive review, in so much that the movie gets 2 and a half stars out of four. Yet the final words of the review aren’t exactly a ringing endorsement: “For a movie as physically fit as this one wants to be, Pain & Gain is carrying way too much extra weight.”

MORE: TIME’s Richard Corliss on Pain & Gain

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