Remember the days when Michael Bay made good movies. I know it’s hard to do because of those bad Transformers movies he made. Well ,maybe they weren’t all that bad, but it’s pretty hard to defend that second one. Well before he started destroying the things we loved as a child. Mr. Bay made some pretty decent movies. He started off big with three great movies back to back “Bad Boys“,”The Rock“, and Armageddon“. The success of those movies lead him to take some risks with “Pearl Harbor” and “The Island“, but since they didn’t pull in the box office or critical response he wanted. It’s very easy to see why he would jump at the opportunity to direct a franchise as big as “Transformers“. After that trilogy became a box office bonanza. Mr. Bay has decided to take a break between popular toy lines to bring us his new action comedy “Pain & Gain“.
The story of this is so bizarre it would fit perfectly in a Coen Brothers picture, but because of how loud these main characters are. They could only work in a Michael Bay one. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg ) is a body builder who wants the american dream. You know the big house, fast cars, and beautiful women. He doesn’t want to work for it like most of us do every day, but he feels he’s entitled to it because he wants it so bad. After watching a seminar by a self-help guru (Ken Jeong) he decides that he is going to kidnap business mogul Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) and make him sign over all of his money. Daniel even gets his friends Paul Doyle(Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) to help out with this crazy plan with the assurance that no one will get hurt. Of course everything goes to shit right at the end, but that’s not really a spoiler because it shows you the ending right at the beginning before it flashes back to show you the events that caused it, and the scene of Mark’s character running from the cops was used in the trailer.
For the most part “Pain & Gain” is a good story. This was based on a true account of events that happened back in the late 90’s. The movie knows that this may be hard for a lot of us to believe. So, right at its most insane moment, they put a text on-screen to remind us that yes, this was based on a true story. The main characters are fascinating because it’s hard to believe how incredibly daft these people are. I found myself just laughing at how one problem just snowballs into an even bigger problem. Then how they fix the bigger problem results in something more complicated than their first problem. The supporting cast that also includes Ed Harris and Rebel Wilson give the movie it’s much-needed dose of common sense. I was worried that this would just focus soley on these idiots who were involved in this scam, and I’m glad it doesn’t. The plot has just enough twists to help keep you guessing at how far they will go with it, but not enough that it will confuse you.
While I admire the story of this,I just don’t think Michael Bay is a very good story-teller. It’s way over two hours long and it could have easily been done in less time. Every single character has to have their own voice over introduction. Even the minor characters who are not on-screen as often get their own voice track. I swear in one scene I could hear even the damn dog start to have his own commentary. This gimmick would have worked fine if they continued to use it, but after the intros it’s mostly Mark Whalberg and Dwayne Johnson that get to do the talking. There are also a few moments where the movie wants to be a dark comedy, and for the most part it works. They were just not as consistent about its element as I would like. Another thing that bugs me is that if this is supposed to be based on a true story. How come everything in this world looks fake? The real people of which this story is based on look nothing like the actors playing them. Also in this world every single profession played by a female looks like a stripper or porn star. From police work to medicine to even just someone out on the street. Every single extra or day player woman in this looks really hot. If they don’t fit that mold they are usually cast as the fat girl and ridiculed right away. I could go into issues I had with the subplots involving Dwayne Johnson’s character constant change in ideals and morals, but it really does nothing much to advance the story so I’m not going to waste your time by including it in this review either.
Is “Pain & Gain” worth your time? I’m glad to see Michael Bay can tell a story without relying solely on special effects and it’s great to see that he doesn’t have to use quick cuts and edits to get our attention. It’s not a bad movie because it has some really good potential. It’s just not one that I would keep revisiting. I will close by giving this its biggest praise. The plot of this movie way easier to follow than any of the “Transformers” features.