I’m finally seeing Michael Bay‘s Pain & Gain (Paramount, 4.26) on Monday night. Pain is Bay’s first modestly-scaled (costing a relatively frugal $26 million), character-driven film ever — a “gimmee” that ansty Paramount execs let him do because he’s made them so much money with the Transformers films. Half of me wants to like Pain & Gain going in because it seems to signify that Bay is at least trying to deliver a little more nutritional value. On some level he’s also trying to atone for his sins.

In today’s Miami Herald, in fact, Bay has literally apologized to critic Rene Rodriguez for the frame-fucked, machine-gun cutting of Armageddon. Rodriguez wrote the interview after speaking to Bay during a recent Miami Beach press junket.

“I will apologize for Armageddon,” says Bay, “because we had to do the whole movie in 16 weeks. It was a massive undertaking. That was not fair to the movie. I would redo the entire third act if I could. But the studio literally took the movie away from us. It was terrible. My visual effects supervisor had a nervous breakdown, so I had to be in charge of that. I called James Cameron and asked ‘What do you do when you’re doing all the effects yourself?’ But the movie did fine.”

Rodriguez notes that Pain & Gain is “atypical” for the hyperkinetically-inclined Bay in that he “actually holds on shots and characters faces for longer than two seconds, giving you time to take them in.”

“People have always given me a hard time on my editing,” Bay admits. “But if if you could do a graph on my movies you would see how my editing has slowed down over the years. Bad Boys was my first movie, and we cut that quite fast. Back then it was very new for action. Now you see a lot of that imitated. Call it what you will. Yes, critics have given me shit about it. But when you watch the Bourne Identity movies, they are cut way faster.”

Bay is mainly referring, I think, is the second Bourne film (or the first one that Paul Greengrass directed)– the cutting in that one was absurd. When I first saw it at the WGA theatre a woman threw up.

Four years ago I wrote a piece called “Bay of Lost Hope.” It opens as follows:

“There was a movie-theatre moment eight years ago when I thought Michael Bay might one day grow into a semi-mature film artist. Maybe. To my delight and surprise the opening seconds of Pearl Harbor began with Hans Zimmer‘s music playing for nine beautiful seconds over a black screen — a semi-overture, I thought at first. But the black gave way to a shot of World War I-era biplanes cruising over cornfields during magic hour — a middle-American nostalgia scene. But that black-screen opener was still…well, mildly impressive.

“I asked Bay about the blackness at a press conference the next day. He talked about how he had to fight hard to begin the film this way, especially since it meant not starting this Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film with the traditional highway-tree-lightning Bruckheimer logo.

“It wasn’t much of an artistic call on Bay’s part but it was at least something, I felt. I came away from Pearl Harbor half-convinced that if Bay ever wanted wanted to move beyond shallow whambam blockbuster movies that he had the potential to do so.”

I was inspired to write this after reading Kim Morgan‘s recent review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. She also suspects that Bay has more in his quiver than he’s commonly given credit for.”

Exhibitors at Cinemacon were down on Pain & Gain and maybe there are reasons for that. I’ll figure it out soon enough.

“If you watch Pain & Gain with an open mind,” Rodriguez comments, “you will see Bay is stretching, regardless of whether you like the movie.

“Of course, he’s making Transformers 4 next, so we’ll be back to the same-old. But I really liked the vibe of P & G. It is so Miami (which I know means nothing to people who don’t live here, but still). And they stayed true to the real story, with only a few exceptions. It’s an unpleasant, pitch-black comedy but it fucking works…as long as the viewer isn’t all PC-sensitive.”