For the last 8 years, explosion fetishist Michael Bay has been directing the Transformers franchise. A trilogy of mindless and often dull movies about robots beating each other up that have really damaged his reputation. Pain and Gain sees Bay’s first time directing outside of that franchise since 2005. Luckily, this film shows he is still able to direct movies based on humans in a fun, stylish way. While the film itself is slightly messy in parts, with the tone shifting from funny to dark and back again, it is one of Bay’s best movies he has ever made.
Pain & Gain is based on the ‘true’ story of a group of bodybuilders who wish to live the American dream. To achieve this dream they kidnap, torture, and extort a man they believe does not deserve his wealth. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, as ringleader Daniel Lugo, along with Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson. Johnson is the standout star of this film playing an extremely built and religious convict just released from jail. He shows some real comedy acting skill, demonstrating he can play more than ‘big tough guy,’ and it makes me excited to see him in more films in the future.
The film takes place in Miami during the 1990’s and is suitably colourful and stylized with some really cool freeze frames in between scenes usually containing a few words at the bottom to described what has just happened. At one point, where something truly outrageous was about to happen it reminds the audience that yes, this is a true story. This was certainly a nice touch that while funny, helped put everything in perspective to make it seem even more absurd.
Overall the film is loud, sexy, and violent. You would not expect anything else from Michael Bay. However, where it perhaps falls short is sometimes the violence replaces the humor, which really interrupts the flow. It is a rather good commentary on the American dream, which does lose itself at point. Give it a watch if dark comedies with guys with massive muscles are your thing.