I had pretty low expectations going into Pain & Gain for one reason: Michael Bay. Financially he’s been a success, but critically he’s panned by many.
Throw in the fact that this is based on a true series of events, and my expectations sank even lower. (Remember Pearl Harbor?) However, unlike his other films, he didn’t write the script for this one, writing duties instead going to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the team behind the script for Captain America: The First Avenger.
Based on a series of Miami New Times articles by Pete Collins, Pain & Gain stars Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo, a personal trainer and bodybuilder who decides to move on up in the world by kidnapping millionaire Victor Kershaw, played by Tony Shaloub, and getting him to sign away all of his money and possessions.
Joining in on the muscle-headed scheme are fellow fitness enthusiast Adrian Doorbal and reformed convict Paul Doyle, played by Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson respectively.
The first thing that I must say is that the film has trouble choosing which character guides the narration. First, we have a narration from a character we don’t meet until later in the film, then we have Wahlberg’s character narrating, with the setup feeling as if he’s going to be the main voice we hear.
However, it then switches to other characters as they are brought into the film. On paper, this sounds like an interesting idea, but it’s executed in a manner that’s more distracting than anything.
On top of that there are several scenes in the movie that feel pointless and drawn out, making the second and third acts a lot longer than they needed to be
Many of these scenes are also the kind of scenes that Michael Bay has almost become notorious for, resulting in a lot of moments where you’ll face-palm and then proceed to shout “WTF Michael Bay?!”
Another problem is that it seems to have trouble figuring out what type of film it’s supposed to be. It starts out feeling like an Ocean’s 11-styled comedy with a Tarantino edge, but then suddenly turns into a true crime film, as if they suddenly remembered that this was based on a real event.
The only compliment that I can give is that it does have some fairly creative cinematography, making use of various “GoPro” styled shots to add a nice degree of realism.
However, much of that realism is almost nullified when some of the creative shots are used repeatedly, as if Bay wanted to create the illusion that some scenes were shot in one take a la Rope even though the edits are obvious.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I did not like this movie. The story had potential as it started out really well, but it takes a sharp nosedive really quickly as the touch of Bay does its work in how the film is shot and edited.
All of the elements seemed to be in the right place for a film like this to work, but they just had to give it to Michael Bay. Bravo Paramount. Bravo. On my personal scale, Pain and Gain gets a 2/5.