Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Rebel Wilson
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and (based on the magazine articles by) Pete Collins
Running time; 129 mins
Release date: 30th August 2013
Take a completely bizarre crime that is true. So bizarre that you have to be reminded halfway through the film that it is a true story. Get two of the big players in Hollywood to take the leads. Then bludgeon it to death by having the least subtle directors around, Michael Bay, to helm the film. Then you have Pain & Gain, a film with so much possibilities but is nothing more than one long headache.
Danny Lugo has big dreams. A compulsively obsessed body builder working for a Miami gym, he wants to live the rich life and wants to make money quick but doesn’t know how. Attending a self motivational seminar, his dreams of living the big life come closer when he meets crooked businessman, Victor Kershaw. With a devilish idea, Danny plans to kidnap Victor and strip him of everything, his home, cars, wealth, business, just by signing it all over to him. He enlists the help of fellow body builder Adrian Doorbal and ex convict turned devoted Christian Paul Doyle. Sounds like a plan that cannot go wrong. Only if in the hands of a trio of incompetents.
The story is a strange one and in the hands of as director who knows how to direct comedy and action, it has the promise of being an enjoyable little crime caper. Michael bay doesn’t know how to handle this kind of material, so instead bumps up everything to 11 and give us a compilation of his “greatest hits!” Every fancy shot that you have ever seen in any of his previous films is here and set out on parade. The plane over the Miami sign from Bad Boys, the lingering slow motion shots of large breasted, scantily-clad females lap dancing and the famous surrounding shot of the star, sweating and out of breath from a set piece as the camera spins round them while they rise like a phoenix from the flame. They are all here. So instead of concentrating on a half interesting story, he concentrates on himself, like a strutting peacock showing off his feathers.
This is a film that gives you sensory meltdown. It is determined to induce a headache into the viewers and after half an hour it does just that, while at the same time making it pretty tiresome. As the events in the story become more and more bizarre, so he turns up the volume more and it wouldn’t surprise you if a Transformer didn’t show up and knock down some buildings…in 3D!
As everything else is loud, so are the performances. Nobody seems to know how to talk. It’s like watching an extended episode of Eastenders. Everyone shouts throughout the whole film.
The usually reliable Mark Walhberg is the worse culprit. Every line is delivered like he is in another room and the person he is speaking to has earplugs on. We know what he is capable of. we know he can do comedy pretty well (see Ted and, more recently, 2 Guns) but here he misses every beat. Another usually reliable actor is Tony Shalhoub. Playing the kidnap victim, Victor, he spends most of the film tied up and blindfolded so he, too, is left screaming and shouting and giving us a stereotype crook. ed Harris, as the cop on the case, does bring an air of class to the proceedings but he comes in far too late.
So it’s left to Dwayne Johnson to actually deliver the goods and bring some hope to the film. as the born again Christian with a slight cocaine problem and looking like he’s an over-sized Mr Universe contestant, he saves the film from being completely awful by bringing some humour to his character that actually works. Without him, this would have been a total disaster but he just about makes it bearable.
Maybe in a few years time, someone with talent and a smaller ego will take this project on and do it some justice because underneath all this noise and flashiness is an interesting film. After half an hour I was exhausted. After two hours I felt like I had a full workout without a shower, so I felt sticky and sweaty and aching all over. My senses had been battered into submission. If I had wanted that kind of punishment, I would have gone to a gym.