10
Oct
15

Pain and Gain is Painful but Not Gainful

Michael Bay has been saying for years that he wanted to make a “small picture” that wasn’t just a bunch of explosions, and was actually about something. Apparently, this is what he had in mind. Generally, this movie has been received as most of Bay’s work: a giant piece of shit. But I’m going to be kind to Bay. I didn’t think it was that bad. It wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but it honestly wasn’t a bad film. That’s about the highest praise I can give to Bay.

Pain and Gain tells the story of three meat-head bodybuilders in Miami. They kidnap a wealthy (and shady) businessman, and torture him into signing over all of his assets to them. They then leave him for dead in a ditch somewhere.

The first half of the movie is decent. It mostly talks about Mark Wahlberg’s character’s life, how he wants more, he wants the American dream, but he isn’t going to get it, he’s gotten as far as he’s going to get in life with his particular skillset. When he winds up as the businessman’s personal trainer, he decides that he is going to take what he wants by any means necessary.

The second half of the movie is where things fall apart. Once the three main guys have what they want, the movie isn’t sure what to do next. Dwayne Johnson’s character blows all of his money on cocaine and needs more. So, the trio decide to do it again. Unfortunately, this time they accidentally kill the target before they can get any of his assets. This leads to a police investigation and the trio’s ultimate arrest.

The second half is where Bay’s predilections take hold. He can’t escape his thirst for over-the-top shit. The characters become more panicked and act zany. The directorial flares like low angles, spinning cameras, and ultra slow-motion all rear their ugly heads. There is this strange, sadistic quality that comes out as well. We see unnecessary violence like Johnson’s toe getting shot off, blood splattering all over the place, and severed hands being cooked on a barbecue.

The movie also has no less than six narrators. That’s right, six fucking narrators. Have you ever seen a movie with more than one or two narrators? No, because it’s a completely terrible idea. It means the movie is confused as to who is the main character and from who’s point of view we are watching things unfold. At first, it’s all Wahlberg narrating, and he should have been the only narrator. But later Johnson narrates, a private detective narrates, and even a stripper narrates. I can’t imagine why they thought that was a good idea.

The acting is actually pretty decent. Wahlberg turns in a good performance. You can tell he’s a hungry guy who wants more out of life, but is constantly frustrated by how he can’t reach the next level no matter how hard he tries. Johnson is also good as an ex-con who has turned to Jesus, but then spirals out of control again. He actually brings the most humor to the film. Bringing in the worst acting was Tony Shalhoub as the businessman. He growls all his lines, chews up all the scenery, and is the most unthreatening “villain” I’ve seen in a very long time.

This movie claims to be based on a true story. It even reiterates that when Johnson is cooking up severed hands on his barbecue. People dissed this film based on its historical inaccuracies. Really, people? Out of all the “based on a true story” bullshit films ever made, this is where you decide to draw a line in the sand? In a fucking Michael Bay movie about bodybuilders who kidnap people? Who gives a shit? Obviously, it’s highly dramatized and a lot was changed. Just accept it and move on.

Pain and Gain is a middling film. The first half had charm and humor and an interesting lead character. The second half manages to destroy most of the good stuff from the first half. The problem was Bay himself. He just couldn’t resist using all the directorial techniques he loves and everyone else hates. With anyone else behind the camera (or if he had just shown some goddamn restraint), this could have been a much better film.

But I will give him credit, I didn’t hate this movie. It’s probably the second best film he’s ever made, behind The Rock. It’s miles better than the Transformers crap he mostly makes these days.

Verdict: Average

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2 Responses to “Pain and Gain is Painful but Not Gainful”


  1. October 13, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Tee hee, I didn’t mind this film. Good to see you did too….

    • October 14, 2015 at 9:20 am

      I’m not above giving Michael Bay credit when credit is due. Although I’m not sure “credit” should really be given for turning in an “average” movie. But, hey, like I said, it’s his second best movie.


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