Pain & Gain Review

2013 - 129 minutes

Rated: R

Directed by: Michael Bay

Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shaloub, Ed Harris


Director Michael Bay has never been one for subtlety, so why start now? His low-budget passion project Pain & Gain, the first film he’s directed in the past 6 years that hasn’t included giant robots from another planet, is anything but restrained. Not that bombast is a bad thing, but when slow-motion, scorching color, fast cars, scantily clad women (who are perfectly made up to workout) and any other number of techniques are used to distract the audience from lack of character development in a story that desperately needs it, there’s a problem. With everything turned up to 11 in typical Bay fashion, the film is heavy on pain and low on any type of gain for the audience.

 

What unfolds colorfully before us is the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a pumped up, ex-con gym worker in Miami and two of his buff buddies (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Anthony Mackie) who devise a despicably stupid scheme to abduct wealthy South Floridians and strong-arm them into signing over their assets. One is tortured and left for dead, only doesn’t die. Others die later.

 

There is black comedy to mine here despite the horrific fate of the victims, but it would have to be a careful measured approach that respects the material. Instead, the film depicts the three knuckleheads as blissfully ignorant, lovable losers who are just misguided in their quest for the American dream; not tragic figures whose true danger is masked as idiocy.


Director Michael Bay has never been one for subtlety, so why start now? His low-budget passion project Pain & Gain, the first film he’s directed in the past 6 years that hasn’t included giant robots from another planet, is anything but restrained. Not that bombast is a bad thing, but when slow-motion, scorching color, fast cars, scantily clad women (who are perfectly made up to workout) and any other number of techniques are used to distract the audience from lack of character development in a story that desperately needs it, there’s a problem. With everything turned up to 11 in typical Bay fashion, the film is heavy on pain and low on any type of gain for the audience.

 

What unfolds colorfully before us is the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a pumped up, ex-con gym worker in Miami and two of his buff buddies (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Anthony Mackie) who devise a despicably stupid scheme to abduct wealthy South Floridians and strong-arm them into signing over their assets. One is tortured and left for dead, only doesn’t die. Others die later.

 

There is black comedy to mine here despite the horrific fate of the victims, but it would have to be a careful measured approach that respects the material. Instead, the film depicts the three knuckleheads as blissfully ignorant, lovable losers who are just misguided in their quest for the American dream; not tragic figures whose true danger is masked as idiocy.

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