Cert: R Runtime: 129 mins Director: Michael Bay Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shaloub, Ed Harris, Rebel Wilson and Ken Jong
Life’s gonna give me another set. I know it will
I’ve been longing to watch Pain & Gain, it seemed hilarious from the first trailer. Unbelievably this is a Michael Bay film, so no Transformers, no giant explosions and no Shia LaBeouf! So what exactly is Pain & Gain? Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami body-builder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian body-builder Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson). Their kidnapping and extortion scheme goes terribly wrong since they have muscles for brains and they’re left to haphazardly try to hold onto the elusive American dream.The minute you’ve sat in your seat and the film begins to play on the silver screen ahead of you, it’s obvious that you’ve walked into a Michael Bay film. As has come to be expected whenever Bay releases a new film the movie is brimming with gorgeous ladies strutting around pools in skimpy bikinis, polished and glimmering sports cars, and shirtless muscular men. Not to mention the plethora of quick cuts and his reliance on juvenile humor as comedic relief. Surprisingly though, Bay manages to show restraint and not blow up every truck on screen. In fact, there might not be a single explosion in the entire film, as hard as that is to believe.
However, if Pain & Gain is Bay at his most restrained then the films serves as further proof that Bay’s direction is too zealous for his own good. Watching the film I couldn’t help but wonder if Bay suffers from ADHD because he simply cannot set the camera down. Almost every shot in the film is some sort of elaborate tracking shot, or a 360 degree StediCam shot around two characters heads, or even shots that go an entire lap around a room, entering and exiting through a bullet-hole in the glass. It’s almost as if he has a grudge against putting down the camera and letting the shot breath, or as if he didn’t have faith in his actors or the script and tried to distract the audience with intricate camera movements. No matter the explanation the result remains the same, and the results aren’t great.However, Pain & Gain’s biggest issue is its uneven tone and the way in which Bay chooses to tell this true story. For the first half or so of the film Bay seems to have crafted a light and funny crime story about a few well meaning, bumbling idiots who get in way over their heads. However, after about an hour the movie takes a ninety-degree turn into some extremely dark territory involving murder and disposing of bodies. It’s an extremely sudden change that makes you realize that this true story is much more than a comedic crime caper, but a serious story about one man’s complete dedication towards achieving the American Dream, a man who is so determined to be rich and successful that he’s willing to do anything to attain his goal. It seems odd that Bay would take such a dark story and try and ring out as many laughs from it as possible, simply because the main characters are pretty stupid.
Don’t get me wrong, the story is inherently funny, but the events it depicts are serious enough to warrant a more dramatic approach to the material. Had this script fallen into a more competent directors hand we may have been graced with a grim meditation on the American Dream and the lengths people go to make it big. We could have been privy to a depiction of the dark underbelly of the American Dream and those it negatively influences. Instead we’re left with a Michael Bay film that can’t decide whether it wants to be a comedy about criminals, or a comedic crime story. In the end, Pain & Gain is an unfortunate disappointment. Hopes were high that this would be a return to form for Bay, that a smaller, more contained story may reel in some of Bay’s more excessive directorial choices, but these hopes proved false. While the film is far from bad, it contains some memorable performances and is consistently entertaining, it’s faults constantly outweigh its merits. The film is much longer than it needs to be, running at almost two hours and fifteen minutes, and Michael Bay simply was the wrong choice to tell this story. It’s a shallow film that spends more time worrying about how good it looks rather than the story it’s trying to tell. It’s a shame, because underneath all of Bay’s spinning shots and dick jokes there’s a really great story waiting for a serious director to give it treatment it deserves.