“Mud” (PG-13): Eccentric characters, a mysterious stranger, a wide river, a boat stuck in a tree, and two unsupervised 14-year-olds who get caught in the middle of it all – that’s a recipe for thrills in this mature-themed but teen-worthy, Mark Twain-esque adventure.
Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are best pals, living in a river town in Arkansas. It looks like the present day, but minus cellphones or computers. The boys take a motorboat to a supposedly uninhabited island to scope out a cabin cruiser caught in a tree, probably in a past flood. What they don’t expect to find is someone living in it. He’s a drifter named Mud (Matthew McConaughey).
The boys bring him supplies and learn that he’s hiding out because he killed a man for hurting Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), the woman Mud has loved since childhood, but who is too free-spirited to stick with him. The bounty hunter dad (Joe Don Baker) of the murdered man and his surviving sons all come to town to find Mud, whose only friend is a cranky older guy named Blankenship (Sam Shepard) who is not eager to get involved. For Ellis, deeply upset because his own parents (Mary Lee and Ray McKinnon) plan to separate, Mud’s love for Juniper is precious. But as often happens, the adults fail to meet Ellis’ high ideals.
The film’s climax features a lethal shoot-out, though none of the deaths is depicted graphically. One child sustains a life-threatening snakebite. The boys use the S-word a lot, and the script includes some crude sexual slang and references to “doin’ it.” An angry young woman complains about something – never described – that Neckbone’s frisky Uncle Galen (Michael Shannon) wanted to do in the bedroom. Mud smokes a lot. The boys pull a thug off of Juniper, and Ellis gets a black eye. Bruises on Juniper’s face indicate she’s been abused by a boyfriend. Ellis’ dad drinks. Mud gives the boys a gun as a thank-you, but removes the bullets.
“Pain & Gain” (R): Far too sexually explicit, profane and laced with up-close violence for under-17s, “Pain & Gain” is an over-the-top caper comedy for adults. And it is truly a riot, albeit one that is not for tender ears or the violence-averse.
Set in mid-1990s Miami, it is the reality-based story of three incredibly stupid Miami bodybuilders, one or two of them revved up on steroids, and how they try to rob a rich and obnoxious client and take over his mansion and businesses. The only problem is, they have no clue how to do it or how to cover their tracks. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a self-obsessed, undereducated personal trainer at a health club, hatches the scheme. He recruits co-worker Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and a new guy, ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson). They will kidnap Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) and force him to sign over his fortune to them. He’s a newly sober alcoholic, so they pour liquor down him, gag him, beat him up, hang him from a dry-cleaning conveyor and more.
He eventually escapes, but Kershaw’s own history is so shady that the cops don’t believe him. The three doofuses keep coming after him. Eventually, he piques the interest of a private eye (Ed Harris) who tells the police to pay attention, and starts going after the three bozos himself. When they get greedy and go after a new target – a porn video king (Michael Rispoli) and his girlfriend – they get caught.
Again, not for under-17s, “Pain & Gain” includes several scenes with strong and bloody violence, including implied torture, skulls cracked by metal weights, running someone over and setting them on fire. Even dead bodies have hands hacked off and burned in an attempt to destroy evidence. A couple of characters use cocaine and alcohol. The film includes visually explicit and verbally crude sexuality, including one graphic sexual situation. The script brims with strong profanity.