Somebody needs to pinch me.
This film was directed by Michael Bay. Seriously? Well, where are the explosions? This film had nothing but dialogue!
But seriously, this film is mad. Absolutely mad…and the weird thing about the whole thing – I actually enjoyed it. What’s wrong with me???
“My name is Daniel Lugo, and I believe in fitness. All this began because it was time to push myself harder, otherwise I was looking at another forty years wearing sweatpants to work…” – Daniel Lugo
As far as Michael Bay films go, I’m not his biggest fan. I don’t like the Transformers films – they leave me with a bad headache, especially Revenge of the Fallen which was downright atrocious. The only film I’ve liked from him was Bad Boys. I wasn’t expecting much from Pain & Gain other than to have something to watch on TV. As strange as Pain & Gain was, I couldn’t help being immersed in the absolute chaos this film had.
The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo, a fitness freak who wants to make his life better, aka live the American dream. Teamed up with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Paul) and Anthony Mackie (Adrian), this trio of bodybuilders kidnap Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), a wealthy yet dodgy individual with plenty of money to burn, and embark on an extortion scheme to wipe out his money. But it all goes horribly wrong…in the most unbelievable and unfashionable way.
When watching Pain & Gain, the film is very quick to point out that this is a true story. That’s what your mind has to battle, the believability of truth because what you see on screen are the dumbest set of criminals you will EVER see. They think they are mastermind criminals and even Daniel got angry when he was called an “amateur” but in all seriousness, amateur is just FAR too kind. It’s more like (with Daniel and his crew as the point underlined):
Criminal Mastermind > Amateur > Dumbass > Dumbass x 1000 > Waste of a Brain Cell
These bodybuilders have no common sense – NONE whatsoever otherwise they could easily see the huge mistakes they were making. It’s like watching a punch line from a joke repeated time and time again and everybody in the entire world gets it except them.
After staking out the mark, they kidnapped Victor in nothing but ninja/alien costumes with a taser as a weapon (on their second attempt because on the first attempt, they stake out the wrong car and missed him). They tortured him, forced him to sign over his wealth, then tried to kill him (which ended up as a mishap after mishap) and instead of keeping a quiet profile, they live it up, blow the money away on houses, drugs and maintaining a rich lifestyle which again forces them to take on another job and further madness descends.
I think Michael Bay enjoys the lunacy of the story. In fact he revels in it. The film has his trademark camera moves – slow mo, 360 circle around the actor, low angle shot of a plane flying above in the skies, show women in extreme sexiness with barely nothing on, walking away in slow motion while object behind them blows up etc. Yet somehow this film works for him. With the extremity of the story, he is able to use his trademarks to even comedic effect, almost like he was joking with himself. The loud, crude and outlandish humour that the Transformers films had which I absolutely hated are somehow perfectly suited for Pain & Gain.
The moments where Daniel, Adrian and Paul were doing despicable things, their dark humour shone to the point where I was laughing hysterically. I was laughing at them, not with them and please bear in mind – I wouldn’t describe this as a straight up comedy, certainly not in the frame of man of the moment, Will Ferrell. Kidnapping a guy in a ninja costume is one thing, but barbecuing a couple’s hands just to remove fingerprints in broad daylight where the neighbours can see (and they did) is just another level of stupidity. And yes – this is STILL a true story. Even when Victor survives the attack on his life, the cops didn’t even believe him because no one reported him missing and the fact they found sex toys in the boot of the car he was held, led to their own conclusions! You definitely felt sorry for Victor as the victim of the story, even though he is equally annoying.
And that’s the thing about Pain & Gain – you can’t sympathise with the main characters. In no shape or form should you give these guys sympathy or glorify their work. They try to act like some modern day Robin Hoods and want everything that the American dream promises but they were severely misguided in their attempts. They think they were entitled to riches and glory but have done nothing to earn it. In other words, their sense of morality is completely twisted and unjustly motivates them to do what they did.
When things start to go wrong, their dialogue exchanges were funny (hence why I enjoyed it) and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the one actor who excelled the most.
“Why’d you make me do that to you, Victor? I have responsibilities! Jesus Christ himself has blessed me with many gifts! One of them is knocking someone the fuck out!” – Paul Doyle
The character of Paul, a former convict who believed in Jesus (and even wore the clothing line to prove it), yet addicted to cocaine had some of the best lines in the film. As the weak link of the trio, I can’t tell you how many times I laughed at him with his antics. I think Dwayne with every project he takes on is getting better and better as an actor. I love how even though he has a tough-guy image, it’s Paul who wrestles with his conscious and the first one to act like a sensitive drama queen. Anthony Mackie is followed closely behind in terms of the absurdity laughter. Mark Wahlberg as Daniel embodies the whole craziness of the film and while he acts as the brains of the operation, he simply has more muscles than brain cells. In fact the only character that brings sanity to this insane film is Ed DuBois (played by Ed Harris), a police detective who investigates Victor’s claim and takes it seriously.
Pain & Gain will not be for everyone. It will be polarizing depending on whether you can accept the craziness of the film, how dumb these guys were and whether you accept Michael Bay’s work and his trademark style when it comes to film-making. The dark comic relief (which I’m sure Bay had a hand in) and the absolute tragic absurdity of the story kept me interested. It might sound wrong of me, but Pain & Gain could be one of Bay’s more decent watching films, although for others, the first part of the title will sum up their feelings about this movie.
Yet somehow for a true story, why do I get the sudden terrible feeling that this film barely touched the surface of what these guys managed to get away with in real life?