Michael Bay's latest movie is a bit of a shift from Transformers—it's a smaller-budget film based on a true story about bodybuilders who get involved in kidnapping. Critics offer mixed reviews:
- At Salon, Andrew O'Hehir calls Pain & Gain "a thoroughly reprehensible and frequently hilarious satire that depicts American life as a circus of stupidity, artificiality, and self-regard." Bay, he notes, "sends a clear message to those of us who've been making fun of him: He's been in on the joke the whole time."
- "Compared with Armageddon or the Transformers series," this is "a stripped-down, modest enterprise in which no major American city is reduced to rubble," notes AO Scott in the New York Times. It "leaves you pondering whether you have just seen a monumentally stupid movie or a brilliant movie about the nature and consequences of stupidity." But "why choose?"
- "The combination of the words 'Michael Bay' and 'steroids' should be enough to give any moviegoer pause," observes Liam Lacey in the Globe and Mail. The film "plays like Goodfellas as performed by the Three Stooges. As a genre-mashing exercise it’s almost interesting, but, really, why bother?"
- "Pain & Gain is arguably too much of everything—everyone jabbers on incessantly, and the movie is in love with its own outrageousness," writes Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News. "But its biggest lift comes from the pumped-up (Mark) Wahlberg and (Dwayne) Johnson. They manage to find the humanity in all the adrenalized muscle."