Michael Bay does Tony Scott. That’s the long and short of Pain and Gain, a bouncy playful romp from the high octane filmmaker that serves as his example of the kind of movies he wants to make when not sucking from the studio tit. Based on the true story of a handful of bodybuilders entering a life of crime and the messy sensational results, the film features all of the Bay staples filtered through a more intimate scope. His use of the frame, cranked to the hilt use of editing and color, and inability to embrace subtlety are here but without oodles of special effects and material built for the lowest common denominator it’s an odd pairing.
Tonally, it’s True Romance. Right down to the overuse of composer Steve Jablonsky’s omnipresent music during dialogue. It feels like a 90’s movie aside from the gloss. Additionally, even though the movie has a “too crazy to be true” vibe throughout, it’s never as ballsy or blended to where it feels all that unique or sensational.
Luckily, it has a few major assets in its cast. Dwayne Johnson has proven in 2013 that he is the best and most charismatic action lead we’ve seen in decades. His performance here carries the entire workload of the film and though Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie do a fine job but every bit of emotion or charisma comes directly from Johnson. He’s brought his chops up to speed with his appearance and brand. The total package. It’s rare that someone hits their potential with so much time to capitalize on it and with the machinery supporting them. The guy can do anything. His work here carries the film. The film’s last third, which runs extremely long, is also kept afloat by some great character work from the always reliable Ed Harris.
At its best the film is an oftentimes fun look at wasted enthusiasm and a close-up of scarily real events that showcase the gap between physical and mental acuity. When the bodybuilders are together and riffing there are plenty of fun moments and the stunt casting of Rebel Wilson actually allows for a few laughs but the overall result is a familiar tone, except done by Michael Bay.
A decent time killer but certainly not some revelation about the filmmaker’s versatility.
Are there any fun nuances to look for?
Yes. There’s some fun use of onscreen text, particularly in last act where the audience is reminded the film is based on a true story. The closest proof that this is indeed a satire is when Bay gets Wahlberg to do a scene in Calvin Klein underwear or scenes involving Lowe’s Home Improvement next to a scene featuring their pitchman Ed Harris.
If I’m into hot bodies of ripped men how will I emerge from the experience?
Enthused. The Rock and Mark Wahlberg are stacked. So would you be if you had their resources. I bet this movie will play well with people who like hard men.
Is Michael Bay smarter than all of us?
Where are all the hot bitches?
Relax. There are attractive women in this as well. I did mention Rebel Wilson, right?
Is Mark Wahlberg a good muse for Michael Bay?
Maybe. I like Wahlberg but he has made a career out of wise choices and aggressive blandness. Seems a logical fit to me.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Nick On… Is my new ongoing movie review column. The goal is to distill things a little and make it a little more playful and easier to digest rather than the long form. Hope you like. Please let me know what you think as there will be many of these coming and the goal always is to improve. Please share and whatnot.
Pain & Gain (2013)
A pair of bodybuilders in Florida get caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong.
- 04.26.2013 (USA)
- Michael Bay
- Christopher Markus
- Stephen McFeely
- and 1 more credit
- Mark Wahlberg
- Dwayne Johnson
- Ed Harris
- Rebel Wilson
- Anthony Mackie
- Watch or buy now