Pain & Gain: Michael Bay’s Small Movie Surprises

April 30, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Pain & Gain: Michael Bay's Small Movie | Review 2013


That’s a question I asked myself throughout Pain & Gain.  How can a story like this be true?  Then came a moment where Dwayne Johnson’s character stood outside barbequing the fingerprints off human hands.  In that moment, Michael Bay decided to throw a font on the screen:

“This is still a true story.”

From that point on, I truly understood the film for what it was.  Once you understand a movie like Pain & Gain, it becomes easy to sit back and enjoy the mayhem.

I’ve always been a fan of Michael Bay.  I especially enjoyed Bad Boys & Bad Boys 2.  Pain & Gain fits nicely next to those two films.  The movie is a gruesome (yet funny) tale about the dark side of the American Dream.  Mark Walberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie team up to create their own fast track to the good life in ways you won’t believe.  The movie lives and dies on whether or not you like the characters they play.

Honestly, I didn’t fully understand Mark Walberg’s character, Daniel Lugo.  For someone who spends the majority of the movie talking about hard work he is awfully quick to hatch an insane kidnapping plot to get rich quick.  It’s tough to sympathize with a character that hates when criminals get ahead yet chooses a life of crime in order to get ahead.  However, this movie isn’t about believable motivations because these are real people!

I’m officially a fan of Anthony Mackie.  (I’m really looking forward to his portrayal of Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.) His performance as Adrian Doorbal provided some of the film’s biggest laughs.  He is simultaneously the voice of reason and eager schemer.  He would have stole the show if it wasn’t for The Rock.

Dwayne Johnson is THE reason why I enjoyed Pain & Gain.  His character, Paul Doyle, is the most consistent source of laughter and sympathy in the film.  One moment, he’s the head cheerleader on Team Jesus.  The next, he’s robbing bank trucks and feeding his own toe to dogs.  (Did I just type that?)

It still seems odd to laugh at true events too idiotic to believe.  How could they possibly believe they would get away with it?  It’s an interesting choice for Michael Bay to inject comedy into such a violent story but I think it’s the right choice.  These three body builders kidnap, torture, extort and murder people.  You almost feel guilty laughing at them as their schemes go awry.  But that’s the point.

This is a true story after all.  If Pain & Gain were based on original material, I don’t think it would have the same impact.  You can tell Michael Bay had fun stepping away from Autobots to make a smaller movie.  I wish he would have left some of his signature shots behind as well but he can’t seem to resist the ol’ circular tracking shot.

I liked Pain & Gain but not enough to recommend you catch it in theaters.  If you like Bad Boys or movies like Crank, Pain & Gain will definitely entertain you.  Just wait until it pops up on Demand.

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