Pain & Gain
April 26, 2013
2 hours 9 minutes
Moviegoers love Michael Bay movies, plain and simple. No matter how awful they are, they still make a crap ton of money and many people out there like the racist jokes and non-stop explosion fiestas that he brings to even his non-science fiction films. Take 'Pain & Gain' here, for instance. This is a movie that constantly tells its audience that it's based on a true story, and by that I mean they literally say on screen that this movie is based on a true story three times throughout its 129 minute running time. Even though Bay expects us to believe that everything in this film is true, there are too many comedic elements and not enough dark material to make people fully invest in the film. From the trailers, this film looked like a pretty fun hard R popcorn experience. The overall result was anything but, and that's coming from someone who actually likes all three of the 'Transformers' movies, including 'Revenge of the Fallen' to an extent. 'Pain & Gain' takes the potential greatness it had and instead gives the audience bad jokes to laugh at, asshole characters that are hard to root for, and too much going in a film that could have been 20-30 minutes shorter.
The year is 1994, and Miami local Daniel Lugo lives for fitness. By that, I mean he literally lives for fitness, as he is the buffed out manager at Sun Gym, where business has tripled its customers thanks to Lugo. After seeing a man named Johnny Wu talk about being a "do-er" instead of a "don't-er," Daniel decides that he wants to live the American dream. The only problem with that is the "American Dream" costs a lot of money. That's where Victor Kershaw comes in. He's a snobby rich guy who could care less about guys like Daniel. So Lugo, teaming up with his co-workers Paul and Adrian, tortures Kershaw into signing away all of his money and property. Now Kershaw wants revenge on these three men. Now it's a cat and mouse game between the Sun Gym Gang and Kershaw as murder, drugs, and undercover work all develop into a story so insane, it has to be true.
Many are going to blame Michael Bay for this film because of the fact that he directed it. In all honestly I don't blame Bay for the mediocrity that this movie is, because as a director, he does a solid job. Sure he can't direct his actors properly, but on a visual stand point, he does a good job presenting this crazy crazy world. The editing might be strange, but in a way it works here, adding to the dark insanity that's being presented on screen. As for the people who should be ridiculed for this film, it should be the screenwriters.
This film might have been Bay's baby from the start, but he didn't write the film at all; Christopher Markus and Stephen McFreely are the masterminds behind the screenplay. This screenwriting duo have been responsible for films such as 'The Chronicles of Narnia' trilogy and 'Captain America: The First Avenger.' Despite not necessarily having an awful track record, I ponder why and how they transitioned from sci-fi/fantasy films to this hard R dark comedy. This film is trying to be a comedy, yet there aren't any laugh out loud moments present. When the movie tries to be funny, it's pretty bland. When it's trying to be dark, it becomes as dark as an over cooked burger on a hot summer day. There are really pointless things in the script as well, ranging from unneccesary voiceovers to cards that literally pop up and remind its audience that the film is still a true story. When a movie does something like that, it's never a good sign. As for the writers themselves, they should just stick to the sci-fi/fantasy genre where they belong.
Of all of the actors in the film, the most enjoyable performance by far was Ed Harris. Harris plays the man hired by Tony Shalloub's character Victor Kershaw to hunt down the Sun Gym Gang and get Kershaw's money back. It seemed that Harris was the only actor trying to give a performance that people would like and root for, so to speak. In fact, Harris is the only relatively likable character in the film. Everyone else in this film is an ass. Mark Wahlberg was really trying to hard to be a douche, and he succeeds at it, but overall doesn't give a good performance. Dwayne Johnson is somewhat likable up until the attempted murder happens. From there, he becomes a full fledged coke addict that makes you really despise the performance and the character. Same goes for Anthony Mackie, who also gives a mediocre performance, and his worst performance in his career so far. As for Tony Shalloub, despite his character being an asshole, the audience is actually rooting for him after we're supposed to root for the Sun Gym Gang. The actors overall are trying to hard to be the biggest douches and most unlikable characters imaginable, and they're successful at doing just that. The only thing is, there's no payoff to their douchey performances. It just makes the audience hate them as actors in general.
As somebody who enjoys all three 'Transformers' films and thought this was going to be a good movie, I have to say that 'Pain & Gain' was a huge disappointment. There are no moments that are laugh out loud funny, rather there are one or two chuckle worthy moments present throughout the movie. The editing is strange, and there are too many voiceovers. The actors tried to make these characters as vile as possible, while at the same time not giving any good performance whatsoever. The screenwriters failed at making this dark comedy funny or interesting for the most part. Michael Bay has talent as a director, and it's clearly shown here in the way he directs certain scenes. Overall though, 'Pain & Gain' brings the pain, however there's nothing to gain from it at all. If this movie had been 20 minutes shorter and much darker, then this would have been a much better experience. Sadly it wasn't, and this is what we were given.