I Saw A Film Today… Pain & Gain

paingainI’ve not always been kind to Michael Bay. But then again, he makes it very easy to do so (his highest Rotten Tomatoes rating is a wee 67% for The Rock, which is just a terrible film). For a man who has the ability to make blockbusters with such ambitious and grand visuals, he certainly has a small concept of coherent storytelling. Look, I’m all for suspending reality for a film, but to have that luxury you must compensate with a compelling story. Bay doesn’t understand that I believe. He has a “get it done, don’t think about it” mentality that leaves little room for originality.

All Daniel Lugo (Marky Mark Wahlberg) wanted from life was the ‘Murican dream, that 50’s suburbia perfect life that so many strive for but never reach. And giant muscles. But he’s not going to get the first at his current job as a charismatic trainer at Sun Gym. But when a shady deli shop owner named Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) comes to the gym looking to bulk up, Lugo sees his path to the good life via theft. But don’t worry, he’s seen lots of movies.

To help with this heist are fellow lunk heads, Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and the recently released convict/Jesus freak Paul (Dwayne Johnson). After barely capturing Kershaw and weeks later getting all his money, all that was left for the gang to do was kill their only witness… which they fail horribly at doing.

But that doesn’t matter, because the police don’t believe Kershaw’s story and the three gym rats are living the dream. But when Kershaw convinces a P.I. (Ed Harris) to help with his case, combined with the dwindling money of the three, things are not looking good for the gang.

Now, this is the type of film I like from Mr. Bay. One with macabre humor and an alright script, much like the Bad Boys films. His gritty, over-saturated scenes matched with neon tropics of the mid 90’s Florida is an entertaining set piece to view without being overloaded with brainless scenes, which has become a trademark of his.

This story is pretty unbelievable. So much so that if it wasn’t based on a true story it would be completely absurd. Well, it still is, but the fact that it is a well documented story adds a disturbing realism to it. I haven’t read the entirety of the articles written by Pete Collins, only skimmed, but most of the stuff seems to be there. Certain elements like the number of men involved and their past life and crimes are left out. Plus, certain physical and ethnic liberties were traded for big celebrity names, such as Wahlberg and Johnson’s. I guess in some way these offenses are excusable. In some eyes, probably not.

The casting in this film is close to sublime. Wahlberg, Mackie, and Johnson all are great as ambitious and dumb lunks (Imagine that). Johnson turns in a purely brilliant comedic performance here as the gullible loser of the bunch. Wahlberg personifies the arrogance of stupidity seemingly effortlessly. Mackie is kind of the buffer for the two. Together you get an almost Three Stoogian trio. But beefier and dumber. The supporting cast is pretty good too. Shalhoub, Rebel Wilson, Rob Corddry, and especially Ed Harris are great.

Pain & Gain is a very entertaining and different film from Michael Bay. One that I enjoyed. Then again, the more I think about aspects of the film, the more faults I find with it. So I’m just going to stop thinking about it and enjoy it for what it is, a jaded view of the mirage of the ‘Murican dream.

Verdict: Rent it!

*Rated R for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout, and drug use. 130 minutes. Directed by Michael Bay (Transformers, The Rock).

** Thanks to my friend Cody for sharing this cinematic adventure with me.

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