Title: Pain and Gain (2013)
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Ken Jeong, Peter Stormare
After Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2013) came out, action director extraordinaire Michael Bay said he’d leave the Transformers franchise alone because he wanted to try and make a “smaller budget film” (which in Bay’s world means 25 million dollars) called Pain and Gain; the story of three crazy bodybuilders from Florida who decide to kidnap a millionaire, torture him, make him sign over his fortune to them, then they’d kill him and take over his life. Unfortunately that’s all easier said than done because this millionaire is one tough cookie who just won’t die! Interesting part about this story is that it happened for real! How true to life did the film turn out to be? And is it any good?
Pain and Gain is a film that garnered some controversy because people (including victims involved in the crime) didn’t like the idea that these criminals were going to be glorified somehow, they didn’t like the idea that audiences were possibly going to sympathize with the criminals; unfortunately, those comments are completely without merit because we don’t side with the criminals in the film. These guys are despicable and we’re not meant to like them. True, they are funny dudes, because Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie play them that way, and this is after all a black comedy, but even though they make us laugh with the craziness of the situations, we’re not meant to empathize with them, so you can throw those concerns out the window. These characters are not the heroes of the film, they are the villains. Pain and Gain is for all intents and purposes a morality tale. Like a Tales from the Crypt episode, the bad guys always pay in the end; in the end the film shows the age old idea that crime does not pay and that there is no short cut to the American Dream.
Even though this is a departure of sorts for Michael Bay who normally works with movies that cost over 200 million dollars, Pain and Gain is still very much a Michael Bay film. Keeping true to his style, there’s lots of color, there’s lots of cool cars, sunsets, scantily clad hotties, I mean, everything you’ve come to expect from Michael Bay. One thing is missing though: explosions, this is the one Michael Bay where there isn’t an explosion every five minutes, so Mr. Bay, I salute you for stretching your directorial muscles even for a bit. But same as every other Michael Bay movie, characters talk at lightning fast pace, I was going to say “as if they were coked up most of the time” but they are coked up…all the time! The chemistry between Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Mackie is awesome; they truly are what keeps us watching the film. Here’s a Michael Bay film that doesn’t keep us interested via visual effects or action, what keeps us watching is the insane situations and the funny dialog, these three muscle bound criminals are so stupid! At one moment while they are planning a murder Wahlberg’s character says “I’ve watched a lot of movies, I know what I’m doing!”
Credit has to be given to Tony Shalhoub, a guy who normally plays quiet, introspective characters, yet on this show he plays against type, the rich, loud butt hole whom everybody hates. I thought it was interesting how he plays “the victim” but at the same time he is a completely despicable guy. Funny thing about Shalhoub’s character is that he was a low life in real life as well! After he helped catch the “the Sun Gym Gang” he himself was also prosecuted for committing fraud and embezzling money, though this part of the story isn’t touched upon in the film. Speaking of changes from life to screen, Of course, there were some changes, primarily with the character played by Dwayne Johnson. In real life, Johnson’s character was a wimpy looking dude, not a body builder at all. But these types of changes are to be expected, directors love to jump at the chance to make their film more dramatic, or more action oriented, bigger, louder, especially in a Michael Bay film. This is why Bay, seeing the opportunity with the always ultra charismatic Dwayne Johnson, turned his character into a 300 pound crank freak. But so what, in the end, this film is a hyperbole, an exaggeration and a very entertaining one. So mission accomplished in my book; I was laughing all the way. And just when you think the story can’t get crazy enough, Dwayne Johnson starts a bbq with human parts, the film freeze frames and a text comes up on screen saying “this story is still based on real life events”. And then it slaps you in the face, crazy people like the ones depicted in Pain and Gain could be your personal trainers at the gym, or your barbers, so think it over before telling anybody your personal affairs, they could be plotting to overtake your empire.
Rating: 4 out of 5