Pain & Gain Reviews
Wahlberg and Mackie aptly portray two of a rag-tag band of idiots, but they exude a sensitivity and self consciousness that has us rotting for them against our better judgement... but it is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson who steals the show, with incredible range and presence. He's been really solid in other movies before (playing type), but this is career best work from him that HONESTLY deserve some Oscar consideration. He's that good.
Like many Bay films, "Pain" is a bit too long and struggles with some tonal shifting, but this is really energetic stuff that can't be denied, and most surprisingly it has a soul and a sense of place. That's more than many films can attest too. From it's great opening sequence, "Pain and Gain" grabbed me and I was left highly entertained throughout.
It's "stupid people doing REALLY stupid things" plot reminded me of the Coen's "Burn After Reading." You know what? Bay's film is better. It's his best since "The Rock," and yes... one of my favorites of 2013.
If you're a rich movie star like Dwayne Johnson then you might get away with it for longer for obvious reasons, but for you and me you're just giving your body a whole lot of problems later on in life. So take my advice, from someone who has been a distance runner since the age of 18, you might look good now, but you're not uber fit n healthy and you certainly won't be as you age. I haven't even gone into the drug use temptation either geez!, take note of the over steroid use sequence kids.
So the first lines spoken by Wahlberg's character 'my name is Daniel Lugo, and I believe in fitness' made me laugh out loud. The plot here is truly bewildering, based on a real deal situation where a group of criminals (including weight lifters) got together and decided to kidnap and extort several victims for their assets, this even lead to murder apparently!. Annnnnd Hollywood has made a comedy out of it, hmmm, what's next a comedy about a high school shooting!?.
OK now I'm not gonna whine on about this, not that much, because this film is actually quite a fun film. The premise is fun in a black comedy kind of way, a kind of mob/gang/heist flick that made me think of 'Get Shorty' for some reason, just not as light hearted. When I say it reminds me I mean the fact both are set in Miami and involve lots of money heists and violence, pretty swish comparison there eh. I won't deny that once again The Rock Johnson brings home a good performance showing that he is actually better in comedy than action (I think).
Wahlberg is also pretty amusing as the fitness obsessed leader of this body building street gang (gang consisting of three). Most of the time the trio are bickering and squabbling over what to do next and how to complete their mission, its actually funny. Wahlberg is good at pushing the others to do bad things whilst always scheming, whilst Mackie isn't as good as the other two big names but his romance with a heavy set white girl is funny. Altogether they are a surprisingly good comedy trio, bordering on slapstick at times.
Shalhoub completes the laughs as the rich Jew these guys are gonna do over. At first you don't really care much for the guy and are kinda rooting for the trio. But in time as the guys wear him down and make him sign over his assets you feel sorry for him. Again he kinda reminded me of the character Dennis Farina played in 'Get Shorty'.
Must point out there is plenty of ass on show here, this is no soft comedy, the girls on display here are so tight n firm oh my!! Bar Paly who plays the main stripper girlfriend for Johnson is so hot I can't even begin to describe in words, just google her.
We lose the 'Get Shorty' type vibe as we near the crux of the plot and towards the finale. Things get messy, bloody and grizzly yet it still retains the comedy, is that right?. I was hooked on the plot though no doubt about that, I was genuinely interested to find out what happens, but as things got more and more gory I also found myself not enjoying it as much. I guess the fact the film is based on a real event kinda makes you think whilst watching, should I be enjoying this? sniggering at this morbid spectacle? this actually happened and affected real people, hmmmm.
So the apart from the fact I actually found this kinda fun, the other surprise was the fact its directed by none other than Bay, yes that Bay. This could be his best film to date if you don't count 'The Rock'. It starts off quite amusing, slick, stylish and satirical, visually glossy naturally and highly enjoyable. Unfortunately it does spiral into a clumsy, bloody, violent chase flick that does remind you...oh yeah, this is a Bay movie (although blood is not a usual ingredient). Clearly certain sequences have been blown out of proportion for thrills, loads of artistic license has been used and the fact the plot makes you like the main trio (who are actually killers and the bad guys) is somewhat dubious really.
But all that aside this is still one of Bay's best films for sure, just a shame he can't seem to make a film without some kind of backlash. Usually because his films are terrible and dump on original source material, this time its a morality issue. Oh Mr Bay.
Excellent Movie! For years, Michael Bay's career has solely consisted of shoot em up flicks and apocalyptic disaster movies. One after the other, they've always told the same stories, utilized the same clichés and have been brutalized by critics everywhere. Personally, I never had anything against the guy. He does what he loves to do and almost 100% of the time gives his audience what they're there for. He sure did great on this one! The performances from Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie were equally unique and insanely enjoyable. The three of them were able to capture the meat-headed simpletons that these criminals really were. The movie as a whole works. Tony shalhoub, Ed Harris, and Rob Corddry are also great in their supporting roles. The movie also has some very good fast paced action scenes that will get your blood pumping. This movie is definitely worth checking out! Oh, and also the fact that this movie is based on real events makes it even more interesting.
Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson). Their kidnapping and extortion scheme goes terribly wrong since they have muscles for brains and they're left to haphazardly try to hold onto the elusive American dream.
The film is a true crime story that follows Mark Wahlberg's ambitious gym manager Daniel Lugo as he decides to escape his low class existence by kidnapping and shaking down one of his odious wealthy clients (Tony Shalhoub) with the help of his two 'roided out co-workers (Anthony Mackie, Dwayne Johnson). Instead of presenting Lugo as a greedy sociopath, Bay paints his protagonist as delusional dreamer, a man driven by a culture that exalts wealth above all to relentless pursue every dollar he can steal. Wahlberg gives a nuanced performance that at first inspires a kind of condescending empathy that is slowly striped away as his atrocities rack up. There are few as satisfying is stupid confidence hitting a wall and Wahlberg plays it Prince plays his guitar.
As good as Wahlberg is, he is outshined by Dwayne Johnson. Whereas Wahlberg is a deeply stupid open book, Johnson's character is a tantalizing mystery. He enters the film a passionate Christian who finds his faith to be of no help in job market that takes a dim view of ex-convicts. Once Lugo gives Johnson a place in his inner circle he channels his vigor and enthusiasm into cocaine and violence. Johnson plays his descent with a reserved detachment that's equally terrifying and hilarious. Johnson has the same look of mild interest when flirting with a stripper as he does preaching the gospel to a bloodied captive as he does when running down a busy street with a bag of stolen money, green dye on his face and cops at his heels. He's not emotionless; he's just a man who's been at the bottom for so long that he no longer cares which side of the gun he's on.
Though the film is about the lives of three very bad men, it's not without a moral center. Tony Shalhoub's kidnapping victim would normally play that part but not here. His character is angry and insulting almost every moment he's onscreen, but the film is careful not to make deserve the torture he endures or to undercut the horror of what happens to him. Shalhoub is good enough so that he character's humanity comes through but he's too much of a fire breather to evoke much sympathy. Ed Harris plays a private detective who takes Shalhoub's case after the police find his wild tale of bodybuilders who made him sign his fortune away unbelievable. Harris' quiet authority and straight forward manner act as an oasis of tranquility in a sea of fiery personalities egos. If Michael Bay movies received awards for anything other than effects, The Rock would finally receive the accolades he deserves.
Bay was smart to balance his film between Wahlberg's heat and Harris' cool because it's how he always designs the color palettes for his movies. Bay and his cinematographer Ben Seresin make Miami look like a garish neon paradise that could be in the same world as "Spring Breakers'" St. Petersburg. The film pulsates with rap video energy and though it only cost $26 million to produce, "Pain & Gain" looks like it cost twice as much. Though Bay has rightful earned a reputation as an action director, he's also good with actors. He makes his cast look as gorgeous or horrible as they need to look and also allows them to improvise enough to fill their character's with enough layers to appear real. Forget the CGI, all Bay needs to make a film is a girl, a gun and a camera with an extremely fast shutter speed.
It's easy to see how Bay would be attracted to the story of a visionary beset complications and uncomprehending subordinates. Bay didn't grow up poor and hungry like Lugo but he has spent much of his adult life making expensive art with other people's money while arguing that his way is the right way. Though Bay has likely never had to deal with the challenges of corpse disposal but he's worked through his share of troubled productions and has had to endure being the poster boy for cinematic trash. There's something universal about Lugo/Bay's need for understanding and respect. After years of mashing action figures together, Bay made a film for himself, full of his obsessions and fears and a noticeable maturity is evident. Only Michael Bay would should the world he's a grown up with a movie where oversized breast implants play a key role.
In what must be seen as the roles The Rock and Marky Mark were born to play, "Pain & Gain" is the "true story" of three halfwit body builders, Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) who hatch a scheme to extort a wealthy gym member, in order to move up in the financial world. But obviously things go horribly wrong, or else there would be no movie. OK, so even though the premise probably doesn't grab you, the satirical nature of this Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely script should have been the catalyst which pushed "Pain & Gain" from a wait for DVD recommendation to a worth the price of admission recommendation. But, as you can probably tell from my rating, though there is some entertainment value here, Bay does such a horrid job of riding the line between dark-comedy and action, which results in audiences spending so much of the first act attempting to become tonally acclimated to what is on screen, that when "Pain & Gain" transitions into the meat of the story, this action/comedy will surprisingly become rather dull.
Side Note: Usually popular Hollywood comedies nowadays go down one of two roads: The Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson comedic road, where two middle aged best buddies spend the film hanging out with teenagers, in order to emphasize how out of touch they are. Or the more action-comedy road, which still uses that same comedic buddy element, but puts a stronger emphasis on many sequences of action; i.e. "Bad Boys" or "Rush Hour". Now while, in my opinion, it doesn't take a director with any unique visual aesthetic to direct these types of films, it takes a director with a special tonal understanding to direct a dark-comedy. "Pain & Gain" is a dark comedy above all else. And therein lies the problem, since Bay has never been known as a director with a tonal understanding. If you don't believe me, just watch "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" again.
But just when I was about to totally give up on this film (much like I did with "Oblivion") after a very hit and miss initial 90 minutes Bay wakes up, allowing the final 40 minutes to be more hit than miss. Furthermore, there is a sequence within this final act where Bay moves the camera effortlessly back and forth between two rooms of one house, contrasting a comedic atmosphere in one and rather violent action atmosphere in the other. This may not only be his best camera work ever, but also the only point in "Pain & Gain" where he truly captures the balance necessary for a film like this to succeed. Bay isn't a bad director, as much as the arthouse crowds will argue otherwise, but by the time sequences such as these come into play, it is a definite example of too little too late.
Final Thought: If "Pain & Gain" would have been directed by someone like Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven, Magic Mike) or even Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) then I believe it's potential would have not only been reached, but exceeded. But alas, it was directed by Michael Bay, and thus underperforms, truly ending up as one of those movies that audiences should only see if there is nothing else showing.
Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus
In 1995, three Miami, Florida goons enacted one of the most bizarre and sordid criminal schemes, a story that could supply a tabloid with enough juicy exposes for a year. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) and his co-worker Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) are personal trainers at Sun Gym. Their days consist of pumping iron and hitting on ladies. One of Lugo's clients is Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), a wealthy businessman with a nasty temper. Lugo and Doorbal, with the help of an ex-con and ex-junkie (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), kidnap Kershaw, hold him hostage for weeks, torture him, and eventually get him to sign over his assets to them. Afterwards they try to stage his "accidental" death, though like most things, it does not go according to plan. Penniless and broken, Kershaw seeks out help from a retired private eye (Ed Harris) to provide validation for his case. The Miami police are laughing off his claims. Kershaw is concerned that the Sun Gym gang will strike again when their lavish lifestyle dips, and he's right. Lugo and company get into even more trouble and the body count rises.
The results on screen are often entertaining in an over-the-top fashion, sustaining a rubbernecking captivation much like a horrendous car wreck. You just have to see how much crazier this thing gets, all the while muttering to yourself, "This was a true story?" It even gets to the point where the movie will remind you, via onscreen text as a man barbecues a batch of severed hands, that yes this is still a true story. Naturally there have been fictional inventions, character composites, and some details have been dropped to fit into the confines of a film narrative, but online research shows me that most of the larger plot beats are accurate, thus making the film even more compelling and disturbing. When the film is on, it feels manically alive with intrigue and absurdity. The problem is that it cannot keep this manic tone alive forever especially when actual innocent bodies start piling up (more on that later). There's a certain uncomfortable tonal incongruity as the film develops and the comedy picks up a distasteful resonance. I love a well-executed dark comedy but just because something is macabre or unexpected does not automatically make it funny. Still, the movie has enough high-energy antisocial antics to keep you planted in your seat, laughing through bafflement.
Pain and Gain isn't subtle in the slightest and yet it's easily the most nuanced film of Bay's career. Of course there are still the sleek cars, sexy babes, emphasis on style, and wanton destruction that are hallmarks of the man's career, but the perspective is given a satirical prism, dropping us into the deluded, sub-American Psycho perspective of Lugo, a man with a very cracked view of the American Dream. The moral message reminds me of Marge Gunderson's concluding musing in Fargo, telling a captured criminal, "There's more to life than a little money, you know." There's some slight social commentary on wealth and the dirty tricks of capitalism, but really it's the narcissistic delusions of a jacked-up criminal who believes he can succeed because he's "seen a lot of movies." You may even find yourself sympathizing with some of these knuckleheads, that is, until things get way out of hand. The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The First Avenger) is briskly paced and packed with bizarre details and even jumps into six different characters for voice over (Wahlberg, Johnson, Mackie, Shalhoub, Harris, and Bar Paly). For some characters it works as a great insight into their twisted logic but for others it's just an easy set up for ridicule. The juvenile humor (did we really need a visual pubic hair joke?), candy-coated film palate, and sugar-rush, roid-rage plotting feel like a suitable match for the talents of the bombastic Bay.
The last thirty minutes of the movie will test your sensibilities of good taste. I'm all for having unlikable central characters just as long as the writer makes them interesting (what good is likeable but boring, the "friend zone" of characterization?). Some of movie history's most fascinating characters have been scumbags and psychos. However, with that being said, I need my unlikeable characters to at least progress. When I'm stuck with a bad dude who keeps making the same bad mistakes, it can grow tiresome, and that's where Pain and Gain ultimately lost me. Bay can't quite keep up the charade of ironic bemusement forever, and a saggy second half starts to tread water, forcing the characters to act even more outlandish and inept. Did we need The Rock losing his big toe and then inexplicably giving it to a dog? It feels like the movie is filling time until the accidental murders come into being, raising the stakes. For a movie that's 130 minutes, there should not be any need to fill time. During that long sad stretch, you start to feel disquiet, like the movie has lost its sense of perspective and the jokes have gotten too mean, too ugly, too outlandish. It doesn't feel funny any more, and maybe that's ultimately the point, but by the end Pain and Gain has soured. It overstays its welcome and then some.
Its tone and connection to the real world raises an interesting and thorny question over whether something like this is appropriate. Should a story that involved the murders of innocent people end up becoming an over-the-top, stylized, lavishly glamorized Hollywood crime comedy? It has been over 15 years since the events of the Sun Gym gang, but is there a statue of limitations on good taste? Are we eventually destined for a vulgar film tackling the poor lives of the victims of 9/11? The answer is almost certain. What is off limits, or more pressingly, should anything be off limits to a comedic narrative? Is anyone really furious with Trey Parker and Matt Stone over their first film, Cannibal the Musical, transforming nineteenth century murder into song and dance? I doubt it, and yet there was something very off-putting about 2011's 30 Minutes or Less, an unfunny comedy based around the true story of a pizza guy strapped with a bomb and ordered to rob a bank. The guy was blown to bits in real life (ha ha?). I guess I, as well as audiences, would have been more forgiving if the movie had been funny. I'm sure there would be fewer objections if Bay's film had been more of a sober, contemplative drama on the sad acts of a bunch of desperate criminals, but with all the hyperbolic elements, machismo, and so-crazy-it-must-be-true plot turns, how could you turn this story into a serious drama? Not from the perspective of the nitwit criminals, at least. I don't think the movie is ever positioning these guys as anti-heroes or excuses their excess.
Wahlberg (Ted) broke out as an actor thanks to a similar role as a wannabe star whose ambitions exceeded his grasp, and the man does dumb as good as just about anyone in Hollywood. It's a specific kind of dumb, the angry, arrogant, pissy, self-involved kind of dumb that makes it acceptable to ridicule his character to no end. Johnson (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) gets to explore some interesting range as an actor, pacing around the demons of his character before just going hog-wild with the excess. Mackie (Gangster Squad) is arguable the most sympathetic of the group but also with the most to lose. Compared to his peers, he's practically mild-mannered even though he takes injections into his penis. Shalhoub (TV's Monk) is amusingly apoplectic and just enough of a jerk that you excuse his misfortune, at least for a little while. Ken Jeong (The Hangover) and Israeli model-turned-actor Bar Paly give the exact performances you would expect them to deliver. The best actor in the whole movie, though truth be told there isn't a stinker in the bunch, is Emily Rutherford (Elizabethtown, TV's The New Adventures of Old Christine) who plays Dubois' wife. She has this calming, down-to-earth presence that seems to bring a small sense of peace to the madcap antics. She doesn't have a lot of screen time but you'll wish she had lots more.
Perhaps I'm being unfair to a movie that clearly isn't intending to be anything but naughty, tacky, and gleefully excessive. In a way Pain and Gain reminds me of Tony Scott's Domino, loosely based upon a true story but crushed to death by narrative kabuki and Scott's characteristic excess. If I wanted to defend the much maligned Michael Bay, I'd argue what the real difference is between his excess and the excess of the more critically lauded Scott? Bay doesn't have a slate of movies to his credit the likes of Top Gun, Crimson Tide, or True Romance. But isn't flashy, artistic excess all the same when in the name of empty storytelling? Domino is also an apt comparison because it's ultimately tiresome and far overstays its welcome, losing its audience with an endless array of odd sidesteps and moronic, deviant characters. While Pain and Gain has enough quirk and style to justify consideration, you may not respect yourself once it's over.
Nate's Grade: C+
This film marks Bay's first departure from large scale action pictures, and it shows. In the past, he has frequently been able to make up for ill conceived jokes and poor storytelling with eye popping visuals and fast paced action scenes. Not so in the case of this crime drama. He has no handle on setting the tone for the film. It sometimes tries to be lighthearted, while other times it's overly serious. Bay also frequently resorts to his "action film" tactics that feel out of place.
In the hands of more capable filmmakers like the Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson, this would have been a great film with a story that proves truth is stranger than fiction. But under Michael Bay's helm, the film is a misguided attempt at a caper that exists for the audience to ridicule the protagonists rather than sympathize with them.
I must say, the camerawork was unique, and unlike Michael Bay in many ways, which I give him props for. The writing is probably the weakest part, but the dialogue is much more reasonable than most of his outings. Michael Bay's "Pain & Gain," to me is his finest work to date, but that's not saying much. He has put himself back on track for his career in storytelling, and not giant robot beating the crap out of each other. In the end, it's the comedy that makes this film work so well and the violence that will make you queasy. It's not the best film ever, but it's a damn entertaining one, and the true story element is carried out perfectly. For what it was, I really enjoyed my viewing of this film, and I recommend it to everyone, especially people who think Bay has run out of steam, because this film may just savour his long-lost fans. "Pain & Gain" is a very good comeback!
To quote the classic television series, "Homicide: Life on the Street," there is no such thing as a criminal mastermind. Which would be something to keep in mind while watching Michael Bay's "Pain & Gain" which is sadly much more interested in slapstick than in exploring the dark side of the American dream in this sort of true story. So, while there can be humor found in incompetence and incontinence, the same really cannot be said for torture. At least a very good cast that also includes Rebel Wilson and Ed Harris picks up some of the slack playing to their respective strengths, even if it's not quite enough.
Based on true events that occurred in mid-nineties Miami (though DVDs and modern cellphones are on view), 'Pain & Gain' has been billed as the movie that sees Michael Bay, undoubtedly the most hated film-maker in the history of all cinema, finally mature and enter the world of serious drama. If you believe that claim you're far too gullible. Even the movie's poster features sunglasses, a hot girl and a speedboat for God's sake. Ever since his 1995 debut, 'Bad Boys', Bay has been living out the world's most expensive mid-life crisis. Just like his latest film's protagonists, everything in Bay's world has to be big. It's hard not to think he's trying to compensate for something.
'Pain & Gain' opens with a SWAT team jumping out of a van in fetishised slow motion and we're instantly plunged into Bay's world. This is a world where camera moves and editing choices are made arbitrarily, because Bay thinks they might look "cool", not because they might help to tell the story in any way. A world where a voice-over narration is employed because Bay is clueless as to how to convey anything in a visual manner. A world of gratuitous dwarves, dodgy Jewish stereotypes and toilet gags. Bay personifies the bastardization of the American dream, which once read "Anyone can make it if they work hard" but has become something along the lines of "If that talentless hack can make it, why can't I?". If you thought 'Pain & Gain' was ever going to be a witty and insightful deconstruction of such a dream, you were deluded. The moronic meathead jocks of the film are Bay's target audience. He may not know the first thing about making movies but Bay knows a lot about making money and he's not about to bite the hand that feeds him.
It's bad enough that Bay has made yet another cinematic travesty but the fact he's done so with a story based on true events adds an extra level of queasiness. Horrific real life murders are shockingly played for laughs, but of course in Bay's hands (all thumbs no doubt), genuine wit is nowhere to be found. At one point, during a "comic" moment involving decapitated heads and a barbecue grill, Bay flashes the text "This is still a true story" on screen. That Bay is both aware and seemingly proud of this fact says it all.
If Bay was aiming for satire, 'Pain & Gain' is a serious misfire as it's a film that could only ever be truly enjoyed by the sort of macho dumb-bells it purports to critique.