Pain & Gain: Pump It Up

by Ethan Alter April 26, 2013 8:00 am
<i>Pain & Gain</i>: Pump It Up

As improbable as it might sound, Pain & Gain is Michael Bay's attempt a Coen Brothers picture -- his Fargo or Burn After Reading if you will. Like both of those films (which rank amongst my own personal favorite Coen-made movies), Pain & Gain is a dark comedy about a group of very dumb, very greedy, very selfish and all-around not very nice people who apply their distinct lack of smarts and skills to crime and wind up failing spectacularly. But where the Coens were only kidding about Fargo being based on a true story, Pain & Gain's claims to legitimacy aren't manufactured. The crime dramatized here really did go down in Miami in the mid-'90s and while details have almost certainly been altered to fit Bay's glossy, hedonistic vision, Pain & Gain is, funnily enough, probably more historically accurate than the director's recreation of Pearl Harbor.

Gangster Squad: A Crime Against Cinema

by Ethan Alter January 11, 2013 6:01 am
<i>Gangster Squad</i>: A Crime Against Cinema

The easiest way to ease into a discussion of Gangster Squad, the fedora-era set, City of Angels-based cops vs. crooks action movie from Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, is to describe what the movie is not. For starters, it's not a serious take on old-school film noir in the tradition of Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. Neither is it a twisty detective story like The Big Sleep or square-jawed, no-nonsense crime picture like The Public Enemy. It's also not a richly stylized comic book take on the period like Dick Tracy. And it's definitely not a successful piece of pop art mythmaking like the film it most clearly aspires to be, Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Above all, in case you couldn't tell already, it's also not a good movie.

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