Saturday At The Movies: It’s Worth the Pain and Gain

I did not have high hopes for this Michael Bay film. I don’t have high hopes for any Michael Bay film. He’s a fine tent pole, summer blockbuster director but the previews of this movie suggested this was something with a little more finesse – not a lot but a little. Boy, were my socks blow off!

Pain_&_Gain_Teaser_PosterStarring Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson, this true story is about three nearly idiot body builders and their quest to take from the rich and give to themselves. It’s important to remind yourself throughout the film that this is, indeed, a true story.  A better script for Hollywood couldn’t have been written. There’s a detective, a place for The Rock’s acting skills, Marl Wahlberg’s increasingly large repertoire of acting accomplishments, a fat chick who’s played as a real human being and actual directing skill.  I hesitate to lay the creamy goodness of this movie at Michael Bay’s feet. How much was script and how much was execution? It’s hard to tell, but it does make for a fun ride and truly interesting visuals. At times I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The slow motion camera work, the up close shots that capture the essence of the characters, the first person narrative that shifts from character to character – all of these make an interesting film that I would be hard pressed to believe is a Michael Bay movie.

The acting is perfect. Dwayne Johnson has found the role for him. He’s big, muscley and a coke addict. The role fits his range to a ‘t’. Mark Wahlberg makes us believe in Daniel Lugo’s dreams and desires and shows us what a f*&#& up he is a heart. We even get great performances out of lesser characters including Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Ken Jeong and Rebel Wilson. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast.

I was engaged through almost the whole movie. The middle was a little slow and Bay needed to hasten the criminal’s comeuppance, but over all I wanted to see what would happen next – what lie they would tell, who they would kill, how long they would get away with it. It’s one crackpot scheme after another, and you’re constantly surprised that the criminal gang gets as far as they do. About three-quarters of the way through the movie, Bay need to remind us that this is a true story, as it’s hard to swallow most of what has happened up to that point. Were there deep thoughts about the value of the American Dream? Maybe. They were layered under the wide-eyed ride you’re taken on. Maybe on a second look you can philosophize about the movie, you’re hanging on too hard to your seat on the first go around.

Let me stress, though, that this is not the slap-happy comedy that the trailers make it out to be. Nor is it a deep exploration of the human condition. Remember, I’m grading here on Michael Bay, fun movie standards here.

Color me impressed with just about everything in this film. I wouldn’t have thought Hollywood had it in her.

7 muscled punks out of 10

One Reply to “Saturday At The Movies: It’s Worth the Pain and Gain”

  1. Agreed 100% This is probably the first Michael Bay movie I can truly say I enjoyed from start to finish. Much better than I expected and I delight in seeing how Dwayne Johnson continues to grow and expand his range as an actor. It’s the type of story I have no trouble believing that it was true because there’s no Hollywood screenwriter talented enough to come up with characters like these in a situation like this.

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