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


Matthew McConaughey is arguably becoming one of Hollywood’s most reliable stars, and his string of well-regarded movies (The Paperboy, Magic Mike, Killer Joe, The Lincoln Lawyer) as opposed to vapid rom-coms gathers pace with Mud, directed by Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter).

Two teenage friends, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lof­land), come across a man named Mud (McConaughey), who is hiding on an island in the Mississippi river. Mud talks about the things he’s supposedly done, which range from killing a man to evading bounty hunters. Mud explains he’s planning to meet and escape with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), but he needs their help. Will Ellis and Neckbone cooperate or leave Mud stuck, as it were?

For the most part, critics aren’t stuck when it comes to what they think of Mud. New York magazine gives particular props to McConaughey, pointing out that he “drawls and barks and gives his weird timing free rein, with the result that every line that emerges from his twisted, sunken face lands somewhere, sometime unexpected.” The Hollywood Reporter raves that it’s “shot through with traditional qualities of American literature and drama,” while Slant notes that Mud, as well as Mud, “embodies an odd mix of the lofty and lowbrow, the allegorical and quotidian.” But the Village Voice isn’t as much of a fan, opining that “a movie so attuned to natural currents in the end gets caught up in Hollywood’s impossible ones.”

CANNES 2012: Handicapping Five Top Contenders, Including Mud

NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: The Matthew McConnaisance keeps on rolling, thanks to Mud.

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