The year 2013 has been an incredible one for cinema, so as a fun alternative to your typical end-of-the-year lists, we've decided to celebrate our favorite movies by pairing them together. So from now until the end of December, we'll be periodically spotlighting movies as part of our new Best Double Features of 2013 series.
The Double Feature: The Wolf of Wall Street and Pain & Gain
Why to Watch: Because the corruption of the American dream is demented, depressing and downright hilarious in both these films based on horrifyingly real stories. Plus, we should also take a moment to appreciate the fact that we can compare a Martin Scorsese film with a Michael Bay film and it actual makes total, unironic sense. One is about people on Wall Street squeezing money out of poor people who can't afford the loss, and the other is about people on Main Street trying to bleed money out of the rich who can afford it. They're surprisingly two different sides of the same coin.
Since it came out earlier in 2013, let's start with Pain & Gain, Michael Bay's first full foray into feature-length comedy. Sure, there's humor in all of his films, but the funny is often overshadowed by the action or spectacle. However, here the comedy is the spectacle. It comes first and everything else second, and the actual comedy is dark and delirious and constantly dialed to 11. It's both a tribute and a total mockery of the personal excess men push themselves to when trying to aspire to a lifestyle they see in magazines or on billboards advertising cigarettes. To do so they're willing to take what others have and make it their own because that's what they think has to be done to make it in this world. It's a simultaneous love letter to the '90s and its fad-obsessed culture and a complete satire of all the gleefully dumb things people do when they don't know any better.
The Wolf of Wall Street obviously tackles very similar themes about the American dream gone horribly wrong, but Scorsese's film is angrier and more outraged at the behavior of everyone involved in the real stories depicted. There are some out there who are bashing the film because they think seeing Leonardo DiCaprio take a heart-stopping amount of drugs and live a carefree, debauched life with a blonde bombshell on his arm makes defrauding innocent people of their life savings look cool. Those people are completely and utterly tone deaf. There should be no way any reasonable person would actually see this film and take it as an endorsement of such an exploitative, hideous lifestyle.
Also, the similarities between the two films don't just end with them being dark comedies about maniacs. Both Wolf of Wall Street and Pain & Gain feature a great supporting cast who are all willing to play things extremely absurd if it helps emphasize just how extremely absurd these situations became. In the case of Wolf, the best supporting actor has to be Jonah Hill, who shines as DiCaprio's deluded right-hand man. And in Pain & Gain it's Dwayne Johnson's wide-eyed, bushy-tailed gentle giant who is too easily manipulated.
What Order to Watch: It'll make the most sense if you watch them in chronological order according to the stories they're actually based on. So start with The Wolf of Wall Street, which kicks off with the drug-fueled insanity of the late '80s before rolling into the '90s. And then from there is a perfect transition to the neon colors and acid-washed jeans era of the mid '90s that Pain & Gain brings to life with such an appropriately gaudy flare.
When to Watch: As soon as humanly possible, though unfortunately that means you'll have to wait until The Wolf of Wall Street hits theaters on December 25. Consider it's 180 minutes long and Pain & Gain is 129 minutes, that's going to eat up pretty much your entire Christmas day, so you'll probably want to wait until the family is out of town and you've got half a day to dedicate to these portraits of dripping, moronic, vulgar indulgence.
How to Watch: Pain & Gain is currently on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD. The Wolf of Wall Street will be in theaters everywhere starting December 25, 2013.
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