Trailer Face-Off: Pain & Gain vs. Spring Breakers

Published January 30, 2013

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Pain & Gain vs. Spring Breakers, two day-glo action comedies featuring violent crime in picturesque beach vacation destinations.

PremisePain & Gain is a movie about three Robin Hood-wannabe bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) who want to steal everything from their super-rich and possibly criminal client, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub). Together, Wahlbert, Johnson, and Mackie kidnap Shalhoub and get him to sign over his assets. Shalhoub hires Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) to get his money back, and things go radically, drastically wrong. Based on a true story, the movie is set in Miami in 1995, and features a lot of famous people acting demented. The Harmony Korine-directed Spring Breakers also features a robbery and arrest in the Sunshine State. Faith, Brit, Candy, and Cotty (Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, and Rachel Korine) find themselves bailed out by the dangerously loony man named Alien (James Franco with cornrows), who takes them on a criminal tour of the Spring Break underworld. This trailer features the four girls and Franco jumping up and down on the bed and firing off automatic weapons while wearing pink ski masks and bikinis. Sounds fun!Advantage: Spring Breakers

Reason for RobberyThe bodybuilders hatch the extortion scheme in Pain & Gain because they want a better life. They’re tired of barely making rent and working in a crappy gym while the villain—Kershaw—says things like “salad is for poor people” and lives the good life surrounded by nearly-naked women. They see this robbery as a way out, and a way into a permanent holiday on the beach where they too can have strong negative opinions about health food. A noble reason. Faith, Brit, Candy, and Cotty just want to go on vacation, and they don’t have the money to do it. The motivation that sets the plot in motion: staying four-to-a-room in a sleazy motel where they can get drunk, make out with some boys, and dance on a stage. Maybe they should have gone skiing.Advantage: Pain & Gain

Bad InfluencesAlthough the Rock has just come back from “doing time up North,” Mark Wahlberg is Pain & Gain‘s criminal… mastermind. The Rock shows deadpan comedic chops in this trailer and teases an anti-violence streak, which should play nicely against his tough-guy persona. Another bad influence comes in the form of Ed Harris, who displays a creepy calm while he mans a superstorm force of automatic-weapon-bearing police against the three heroes. In Spring Breakers, James Franco’s Alien is reportedly based on the popular Internet rapper Riff Raff. His slurred speech and criminal predilection make him seem dangerous and stupid, and there are multiple shots of Franco wielding guns and smiling. The most frightening thing about Spring Breakers, however, is rapper Gucci Mane standing around with a menacing, wordless grimace. We don’t know how he’s involved in the plot, but we’re guessing it’s not as a friendly ice cream man.Advantage: Spring Breakers

Day-Glo FactorPain & Gain seems like it’s going to be cool, bright, and a lot of fun to look at. A shot of Wahlberg in the Lamborghini guarantees at least one high-speed chase through Miami. Spring Breakers, on the other hand, appears to be shot exclusively at night using glow-in-the-dark clothing and accessories—like a demented ringmaster’s idea of a beachfront community after. We’ve seen one of these things before, and it’s not the hyper-stylized seediness of Spring Breakers.Advantage: Spring Breakers

Who Are We Objectifying?The juiceheads of Pain & Gain look like they could and should spend a lot of their time shirtless lounging around pools. The brief glimpse of Kershaw’s life looks like an amped-up version of every public scene in Entourage: there is no extra nor actor that doesn’t look physically perfect and everyone is wearing, at best, minimal clothing. Spring Breakers pretty much slaps you in the face with the fact that its main characters are young girls who are going to be wearing bikinis a lot of the time. This would seem on par with Pain & Gain in terms of female objectification, but only one of the two movies features these women carrying automatic weapons. Pain & Gain nods at objectifying the male form, Spring Breakers gives the girls you might be ogling the chance to ask “What are you looking at?” with some serious firepower to back them up.Advantage: Spring Breakers

DirectorsWith Michael Bay, there are certain guarantees: things are going to blow up, well-muscled men are going to shoot guns at each other, and there will be a lot of swooping crane shots onto beautiful locations. The man is an action director, but after subjecting us to three straight Transformers movies, do we still trust him not to put us to sleep? Harmony Korine burst onto the scene as a teenager when he wrote the deeply disturbing, Larry Clark-helmed Kids (1995). Since then he’s directed Gummo (1997) and been widely regarded as a cult hero of indie cinema. The man has a twisted view of reality and a unique ability to bring his view to the screen. The critical excitement surrounding a Korine release dwarfs that of his counterpart, so he gets the edge.Advantage: Spring Breakers

VerdictWe’re pretty sure that Pain & Gain is going be competently directed, acted, and scored, and that the explosions will be impressive. On the other hand: Spring Break forever, bitches.Winner: Spring Breakers

Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.