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Pain and Gain
  • Composed by Steve Jablonsky
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2013 / 67m

Michael Bay brings his typical deft touch to Pain and Gain, an arthouse film delving into the nature of being, the essence of life, the facets of love.  Oh, wait, it’s about bodybuilders on a heist.  Steve Jablonsky has been Bay’s composer of choice for a few films now and his music has generally reflected the films themselves, which is to say loud and awful.  This one is a bit of a departure – it really isn’t that loud.  Indeed, right at the start it even threatens not to be awful, though sadly that proves misleading.  The opening “I’m Big” is really anything but big, an inoffensive guitar solo over gently soothing, almost Cliff Martinez-style electronics – it’s extremely simplistic, but passes the time.  Unfortunately the album has another 65 minutes to run.  By the time you get to the obnoxious fourth track, “I’m a Doer”, you’re probably on the verge of losing the will to live.

It’s all about the squeaks and squeals, the pulses and whirs.  It’s perfectly possible to write wonderful music in that style – and in film, Martinez has done it a few times, Mark Isham a few more, others too – but it would be a brave man or a sadist who found anything wonderful here.  The sheer creativity of those guys’ work, the at times ethereal beauty they manage to craft from their electronics – it’s a bit of an insult to put this collection of noises alongside it.  We can all take a little pain from time to time – it makes the gains seem that much more special.  This one’s all pain, no gain.  As appalling as film music gets.

Rating: No stars | |

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  1. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Monday 27 May, 2013 at 16:38

    James, the lack of stars for PAIN & GAIN and GEARS OF WAR – JUDGEMENT and a miserable 2 *s for GANGSTER SQUAD has resulted in 3 Jablonsky scores that won’t be added to my collection. I detached the content of Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS from my mind, and just focused on the music….”Arrival to Earth” is one of the most luminously spiritual themes I’ve heard, while the heroic theme that runs throughout is emotive and full of grandeur. Again, ignore the content of YOUR HIGHNESS, and the resulting Rennaisance flavoured love theme and title theme for James Franco more than compensates for the cloned frenzied action cues. Jablonsky’s awful BATTLESHIP was the trigger that forced me to rely on your critiques > also the chaotic South African exchange rate plus packaging & postage plus huge taxes on CDs [now regarded as a luxury item here] < and be very selective in what I order. I've just read your 4*s for Jablonsky's STEAMBOY, now retailing at just under $60. I do hope that the lazy inertia that has overwhelmed Jablonsky's creativity will be something of his past when he tackles the new Transformers movie.