Film Face-off: 'Bad Boys' vs. 'Pain & Gain'

Film Face-off: 'Bad Boys' vs. 'Pain & Gain'

Apr 29, 2013

You love Michael Bay. You hate Michael Bay. Is there any other option? Most movie nerds say there isn't, but I believe in a world where you are actually allowed to judge each Bay film separately, and decide if they are good or bad. Sure, it's sometimes awkward to admit I loved Armageddon the first time I saw it (when I was 20). See, even there I tried to qualify my appreciation of a Bay film by using the past tense.

Bay has to know he's a tough one to like, especially when he makes sure to squeeze in homophobic characteristics into almost all of the characters we're supposed to be rooting for. For this Film Face-off we're taking his first, and his latest and putting them head-to-head. It's Bad Boys vs. Pain & Gain, let's see who is more Bay-er for Bayer (that's me).

 

Michael Bay

Bad Boys

In 1995 Michael Bay was a music video director for people like Meat Loaf, directed a "documentary" for Playboy bunny Kerri Kendall, and was Goon #3 in a Miami Vice episode. Before any of that, when he was just 15, he says the first thing he ever said to Steven Spielberg was, "I really thought Raiders of the Lost Ark was going to suck."

Pain & Gain

In 2013 Michael Bay is loved/hated. Those who say they love him are also hated. He ruined Pearl Harbor for people who already correctly hated the occurrence of the Pearl Harbor tragedy. His formula of throwing in scantily clad women to random scenes is insulting. Plus, he keeps ruining our childhoods by making terrible movies about toys we used to play with ... OK, we should probably get over that one.

Winner: Bad Boys. Hope is a very powerful thing. That's what 1995 Bay had. Also, he admitted he was wrong about Raiders. With present-day Bay, we are desperately, ignorantly holding on to hope, but it doesn't feel pure. The perfect example is the upcoming Transformers movie. We're going to see it, but do we even want to? Do we actually believe he's finally figured out how to make us care about robots in disguise? We know it can't be good, but will spend months of false hope trying to decide otherwise. With '95 Bay, he showed some promise with Bad Boys, and there was a project on the horizon that was bringing Sean Connery back to a flat-out action flick.

 

Script

Bad Boys

A wise-cracking Miami detective named Mike (Will Smith) and his partner, an even more wise-cracking detective named Marcus (Martin Lawrence) investigate a large amount of herion that was stolen from their precinct. Luckily, a woman (Téa Leoni) went with her escort/roommate to a party, and can identify the evildoers. There are homophobic jokes, they say the title in the film, and plenty of pop-culture references.

Pain & Gain

Based on a true story, Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a Miami bodybuilder who is chasing after the American dream. He gets his friends Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to take a shortcut to that dream with him, and they kidnap and extort the very wealthy Victor (Tony Shalhoub). There are homophobic jokes, they say the title in the film, and plenty of pop-culture references.

Winner: Pain & Gain. Bad Boys has Wesley Snipes, Shaft and Arnold Schwarzenegger's "I'll be back" for its pop-culture "jokes." Pain & Gain has Rocky, Scarface and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Let's call all of that a toss-up. I didn't even mention the laziest part of Bad Boys, which is an identity-swapping subplot where Marcus must act like Mike. Perhaps this concept would have worked a little better if it wasn't attempted until the sequel, when we actually would have known Mike and Marcus better. Pain & Gain seems more original, even though its story is based in truth.

 

Star Power

Bad Boys

Smith was known for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and some people had seen him in Six Degrees of Separation. Lawrence had Martin and supporting roles in House Party and Boomerang. Leoni was unknown. Tchéky Karyo never became known. Joe Pantoliano and a young Michael Imperioli were also in the film, which I don't think is saying much.

Pain & Gain

Wahlberg is a box office success with comedy (Ted) and drama (The Fighter). Johnson is an established star who is happy to jump into franchises (G.I. JoeFast & FuriousJourney). Mackie is getting work in everything that he can. Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Rebel Wilson and Ken Jeong round out the cast.

Winner: Pain & Gain. Even if we give all of the actors in Bad Boys their post-1995 work, it would still be Pain & Gain, especially because of the supporting cast. While Smith is one of the biggest movie stars of all time, have you really focused on Lawrence's other films? Almost unwatchable.

 

Action

Bad Boys

There is a very repetitive flow to this film. Our characters chat, then someone shoots at them. They converse at Club Hell, then someone shoots. They hang out in Mike's lobby, and someone shoots. You see the pattern? Finally the boys take the action to the bad guys, and shoot some more.

Pain & Gain

The action is hinted at in the beginning as Daniel evades the police. Otherwise there are odd moments with Johnson punching an old guy who hits on him, Johnson doing a cash grab, and a bloody situation involving his toe.

Winner: Bad Boys. Yes, the action varies in Pain & Gain. It doesn't compare to one action sequence in Bad Boys. Mike chases the bad guys. He's on foot, they're in a car. The entire time, while Smith's shirt is oddly unbuttoned, you completely believe Mike is going to catch them. It's some of the best movie running of all time.

 

Chemistry

Bad Boys

We have finally arrived to the reason Bad Boys exists. Smith and Lawrence feel born to play off of each other in this standard genre. Do you know they weren't the first choice? It was originally for Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz. Their chemistry was so good, it led to a sequel, and there are currently rumors of a Bad Boys 3.

Pain & Gain

Chemistry for Pain & Gain takes on a completely different meaning. Johnson and Wahlberg are both big boys, who look like they bulked up even more for these roles. Johnson is getting comically large at this point. I've decided to be happy we don't live in a world where we test our actors, like we do our athletes.

Winner: Bad Boys. Sure, if Smith and Lawrence weren't really good together, we would have been spared the bloated awfulness that is Bad Boys 2, but what are you going to do when they come for you? Their chemistry is so good you almost forget that Marcus only wears a vest (not the bulletproof kind) for most of the film. Pain & Gain isn't about friendship, but more the illusion of it. Plus, Johnson and Wahlberg have most of their best moments when the other isn't on the screen.

 

OVERALL WINNER: Bad Boys over Pain & Gain, three to two. Bad Boys leaves you wanting more. I'm not referring to the tired idea, traded identities, or the basic shoot and chase. It leaves you wanting more of Smith and Lawrence working together. Pain & Gain has some really good moments, but Bay is a little chaotic while trying to get back to his "roots" of a smaller budget and less CGI. Pain & Gain makes you feel a little dirty in the end, with no characters to hold on to, or concepts you feel you've learned. Even though Bad Boys isn't as good as you think (give it another watch, you'll see), you feel like you want to remember it.

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