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Mr. Brown Verses Michael Bay

I'm gonna keep this review short, because even after I saw Pain and Gain over a month ago, thinking about everything that happened thought the 129-minute runtime still leaves me depressed and drained.

This movie was made by and for the lowest common denominator who think black comedies like Fargo and Pulp Fiction could be enhanced with long scenes of cruel torture, pointless shots of women either looking sexy, being in the act of sex, or tantalizing customers at a titty bar (I'm not kidding: those are you female characters, people), half-assed attempts to duplicate the Coen Bros idiosyncratic characters and Tarantino's love of stylized, over-the-top violence and hypnotic dialogue; both without the concept of how Joel & Ethan never forget their character's humanity despite being nitwits, vacuous, ordinary Joe's and Jane's caught up in a no-win scenario or just plain evil people (Anton Chigur, anyone?), and QT's gift for writing engaging characters and adding in clever pop-culture references of yesteryear, along with staging graphic scenes of violence that border on cartoonish. Michael Bay is a hack, a director who got tired of trying to rip-off James Cameron's talent of creating a spectacle with substance and feeling and decided to be the Brothers Coen and Tarantino for a day. To say the man responsible for such cinematic suck like Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II and the Transformers series failed in his attempt, is an understatement.

Based on a true story about the Sun Gym Gang, Daniel Lugo (Mark Walbergh) is a meathead with a dream: get rich quick, own a big house with an expensive speedboat, and have a beautiful woman around his arm. Tired of doing the daily grind as a fitness trailer and defrauding seniors, he decides to rob Victor Kershaw (Tony Shaloub), a rich guy who's only crime (besides being a shady, self-made millionaire circa 1995) is being an asshole. He enlists the help of trainer buddy Adrian Dorbal (Anthony Mackie) in his scheme, and Paul Doyle (Dywayne Johnson), a former convict and cocaine addict who's devoted his life to Christ. only to be sweet-talked back into a life of crime by Lugo. Soon, the three kidnap Kershaw, force him to sign over his money and his funds over to them via torture, then attempt to kill him once they realize keeping him in an abandoned warehouse probably isn't a good idea, so they attempt to kill him and fail miserably several times, each time done in loving detail, from crashing his car to make it look like he was driving drunk, to running him over, and over, and over again. Charming.

Add in Rebel Wilson being used for cheap laughs and sex gags about ED, another murder spree involving a wealthy couple, sex toys, more scenes where Bay displays his misogyny towards women (including where Lugo's "girlfriend" is used for a gang-rape gag; I wish I were making that up) and more shots of cruel acts of violence played as dark humor, and there's your movie, a celebration of everything I loathe about Bay as a filmmaker; catering to lowest-common denominator jokes, treating women as whores, mistaking nasty acts of violence as "comedy" and trying to borrow from other better directors (James Cameron, Joel and Ethan Coen, the late Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino) with no flare of his own. The only reason this film gets even half of a star is the fact that, despite how thoroughly unlikable most of the characters are, the one actor that even comes close to capturing the feel of a Coen Bros.-style character is Dwayne Johnson as Doyle, the coke head criminal, turned Christ-follower, turned coke head criminal again. He's very naive to the point where you think he's just an idiot who's following an even bigger herd of idiots, but Johnson doesn't forget the character's humanity shine through every once in a while. I can't say the same thing for everyone else involved in this mess.

1/2 stars out of ****


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