Saturday, April 27, 2013

Movie Review: Pain & Gain

First, it should be noted that I haven't enjoyed a Michael Bay film in fifteen years. Not since Bruce Willis commanded manly tears from audiences around the globe in 1998's Armageddon. That's a long fucking time ago. Sadly, the man who gave us Bad Boys and The Rock, went ape shit crazy once he got his hands on +$100 million film budgets. What followed was a series of unbelievable crap fests: Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II, The Island, and those god awful Transformer movies. I've basically spent the past decade avoiding Michael Bay films like the plague. With that being said, I now have a confession to make: Michael Bay's new film Pain & Gain was absolutely amazing. I seriously loved every minute of it.

Pain & Gain is Michael Bay's low budget (made on a "measly" $26 million) return to his roots. After spending most of the 2000's directing computer animated robots trashing major metropolitan cities, Bay wanted to get back to basics, shooting real actors in front of a camera in his backyard. Of course when you're an uber successful Hollywood mogul like Bay, your backyard is a ginormous mansion in Miami. Either way, Pain & Gain is easily one of the most ridiculous films I've ever seen, both in it's content and execution, and makes for one hell of a entertaining movie.

The Departed, pt2.
A gang of body building criminals who kidnap, extort and murder their way to riches already sounds ludicrous. Well, the film is based on real life events. Like Argo, this film is based on some crazy, asinine shit that is the embodiment of the phrase, truth is stranger than fiction. Mark Wahlberg plays gang leader, Daniel Lugo, and channels previous performances from Boogie Nights and Fear. Make no mistake, his character is a sadistic monster, but he's a loveable sadistic monster. Dwayne Johnson (aka The, Bay cast a dude named after his 2nd film!) has never been more entertaining. Of all the dirt bags in this film, and there's a lot, he's the most loveable. He's an ex-con with a heart of gold, a Jesus freak who loves pumping iron and, an unabashed crack head. I told you, this movie is insane. Anthony Mackie is the final member of the gang who provides infinite amounts of comic relief with his perfect timing and delivery of lines. He's a steroid abuser who's dick stops working and he's got his penis on his mind 24/7.  Tony Shalhoub is great in his role as the film's "victim" but even his character is such a douche you can't help but secretly root for the body building scum bags (aka The Sun Gym Gang).

Honestly, as great as the cast is, Michael Bay is Pain & Gain's true star. His trademark action disorienting directing style, and uncanny eye for projecting iconic visuals onscreen take this already surreal tale to another level. The gratuitous use of slow motion, explosions, low angle shots implying alpha male dominance, explosions, the blatantly sexist objectification of women, more explosions, shoving the American flag in as many shots as possible, ridiculously saturated color schemes, and did I mention explosions already? These techniques are Michael Bay's bread and butter and his indulgence in them have made his recent films all but unwatchable...but Pain & Gain is a different story. It's like Bay woke up from a 15 year nap, more energized and refreshingly self aware. On this project, he's not just trashing his dimwitted protagonists, he's making fun of himself as well.  With Pain & Gain, Bay embraces the frat boy, former Victoria's Secret commercial director stymie detractors (myself included) have thrown at him over the years and he triumphantly responds by saying, "Sup?"

People are criticizing this film for glamorizing the real life tragedy that took place. I see their point but have to disagree. This film doesn't celebrate these imbeciles, instead it showcases and underscores the sheer ridiculousness of these events ever having happened, in a Don King, "...only in America!" kind of way. Some film critics are bashing Pain & Gain because they just love hating on Michael Bay and see this film as a poor man's version of Fargo.  I say this is Bay's Spring Breakers, but jacked on steroids. Welcome back Michael Bay. It's been too long man.


  1. So in other words don't give the guy money and he makes a good movie, about time.

  2. I had no idea that Michael Bay directed Pearl Harbour, a film that I actually have to admit I enjoyed but those Transformers films which are terrible, just absolutely terrible, put me off his stuff for a long time. Pain and Gain sounds amazing though, I had no idea that the plot involved bodybuilders despite hearing how Mark and Rock both had to get into some serious shape and the fact that they're a criminal gang is just such an interesting plot, it sounds like the kind of movie I'd really enjoy, I've got to go and see it.

  3. Both Michael Bay AND The Rock made a good movie? At the same time? This must be one heck of a film.

  4. I'm looking forward to this now!

  5. G.T.Bank Robbery! Based on the trailer, I will be seeing this movie.

  6. My views were as Mark's. I have to say it looks entertaining but.. well, I'll see it eventually.

  7. In his defense, he does appeal to a certain demography with those kinds of movies.

    Explosions and more explosions really are a hit with teenaged boys.