Many an audience member will be alienated from the get-go as Mark Wahlberg's Daniel Lugo, a buff motormouth South Beach personal trainer who wants his taste of the American Dream - the one he doesn't earn, but steals from other scumbags - takes on the mantra of a sneering self-help guru. He vows to become a 'doer' instead of a 'don'ter'. I wish someone was advising Bay on what 'not' to do. Lugo enlists two of his steroided gym pals - Johnson and Anthony Mackie - to help him rip off one of his clients, a businessman who isn't shy about mouthing off about his wealth. They kidnap him, hold him hostage and torture him until he signs away his possessions. Then they try and kill him. That fails, and though he survives and lives to tell the tale no one believes such an outrageous story. Who would right? Hmm.
As the rampant indulgence increases, both within the film and in the nature of Bay's pummeling visual style, so does the abhorrent, immoral behaviour. The disposal of a pair of victims to the trio's greedy recurring scheme, which becomes necessary after they squander their first haul on things like drugs and an operation to repair the effects of drug-indulgence, is nasty and in complete opposition to the accompanying attempts at humour. I don't think any scene involving Rebel Wilson (who becomes the unlikely wife of Mackie's character) was required at all, either. Even though Bay has satirised his own mode of filmmaking - one loses count of the amount of shots designed to capture the actors' hulking figures from below to make them look bigger - this doesn't help me accept this brash hedonism. Bay has been making serious money for years because he followed a similar mantra. There's an audience for it, but I have given up. ★1/2
There is a sequence near the beginning when the lead character, Adam Cassidy (Hemsworth), and his friend (Lucas Till) try and get into a high end bar/night club. Not dressed appropriately, they aren't let in. The bouncer declares that he doesn't let in 'hipsters' or 'virgins'. THIS, for these smug mid-20-somethings, is the absolute end of the world. A sign that they are never ever going to make it. A reality check that their entry-level position at their company (which probably still pays handsomely) is unsatisfying. Adam lives with his father (Richard Dreyfuss) who is ill, but he can't afford to contribute to his hospital bills. Adam presents his team's latest invention to the board but their director (Oldman) throws it back in his face before firing his whole team, for no reason. Adam decides to takes this final opportunity to rack up a multi-thousand dollar bill on the corporate credit card - not by helping his father - but to get into that club and get drunk with his friends. His life is over, he might as well get a taste of the 'high life'. But, it is this incredible insolence that in-turn prompts his director to poach him for the undercover espionage mission to steal a rival prototype. Then things just get silly.
Paranoia doesn't ever engage, the characters are thinly drawn, the performances are either blank and uncharismatic or outrageously overblown, just about every sequence feels like it has been recycled - falling for the girl when you're working undercover for the rival company, hacking her PC while she is in the shower for key intel, getting invited out to a lavish private party after your first day and schmoozing in the office of the big boss (Ford) - and every heavy-handed plot turn can be predicted. ★