Pain & Gain
Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Pain & Gain is based on a true story. A ridiculously, over-the-top true story of weightlifters who desire more out of life and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve notoriety and success. As I was watching this film, which is one of Micheal Bay's better films, even though there are not many, I could not believe that this actually happened. I know films embellish and over-dramatize true life stories but the fact these ignorant men pulled the robberies and murders off is quite ludicrous. It contains very serious acts of violence but the film is a full on action-comedy that contains some serviceable, comedic performances from Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie.
Now, this film is about dumb people doing dumb things. There is little to no humanity or remorse on display and the main culprits are truly ignorant human beings. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a trainer at a gym in Miami, Florida. He is down on his lack of growth and wants to be successful. Financially successful. He vies for attending a self-help seminar, one delivered by Johnny Wu, played by the increasingly annoying Ken Jeong, and decides, with the assistance of fellow trainer Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and the new member to the gym, an ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) to achieve success through unsavory actions. The madness ensues and these three play out in the film like a pumped up, nineties version of the three stooges. There ambition has no intelligence in sight. It is all about the all mighty dollar and seeking the "American Dream" by not working for it at all.
The trio kidnap, extort from business owner Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), he owns a sandwich shop, and audaciously spend all there stolen money which leads them down an absurd path to murder. They attempt to extort money from a Miami porn king Frank Griga (Michael Rispoli) and in this most ridiculous of scenes, they end up killing him with, ironically weights. All about that pain and gain. I can't go on any further. That is the brunt of the story. These men are flat-out stupid and have no idea how deep and in trouble they are getting into. They want that mythical "American Dream" that, in their mind consists of money, women, a fancy house in a fancy neighborhood and being doer. Unfortunately, they do not have the intellect to achieve these on their own through education and patience. They are examples of Americans that are despicable and without any integrity or respect for other human beings.
Pain & Gain is your typical Michael Bay film. Low, slow motion pan shots circling the actors, beautiful girls wearing next to nothing and an extremely dark palette with shots of neon colors that fit the Miami vibe. It is a decent film coming from the director of those awful, mega blockbuster Transformer films and harkens back to the silly action-comedy ways of his Bad Boys films. Light on the heavy explosions and noise, and focused more on the dark humor and, in this case, archaic ways of the trio of weightlifters. This is not to say it is great film by any means, but for Michael Bay, it is fairly decent and funny.
The actors are all sufficiently good in there roles. Wahlberg plays Lugo with the wide-eyed stupidity and distracted optimism of someone who thinks he is smarter than he actually is. Dwayne Johnson shows some better acting chops than any of his previous roles as the drug-addled Doyle. In a scene later in the film he is in prime form while attempting to eliminate any trace of the murder that happened to the porn king. He is an honest, weak-hearted individual that does not have the brains to make it in the real world and is better suited for himself, and society, behind bars. Mackie, however, steals the show. He is on his game in this film from the get go and really soaks in his characters level of incoherence and ignorance. He is gives the best performance in the film. The film also contains a great turn from Ed Harris who plays Ed DuBois, a private investigator who aids in bringing the brainless trio into custody.
Pain & Gain, for all its worth is a film about the stupidity in doing tragic actions. A studio film that seriously downplays the severity of these idiots activities and the lack of humanity in it. There is no remorse from the trio of weightlifters. The film works since it plays off the intensity with the clueless humor. They become semi-successful by doing nothing, like a lot of people out there. It is a little scary to think that we can watch a film about deplorable people and find laughter in it. People were senselessly hurt and murdered for no other reason than the glorification of these morons egos and bank accounts. Is this the America we live in? Scary to think of that. Bay has avoided answering these questions but at the same time crafted a film that is decent for him, but minor in meaning and results, even if there were no intentions but to show ignorance in all its calamitous affliction.