The budget of Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain is roughly 10% of the budget he was given for the latest Transformers film Dark of Moon. Perhaps it marks a change from Bay as it a step away from the franchise he has been directing since 2007. Anyway, ‘based’ on a true story Pain and Gain stars Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo, a fitness freak who works as a personal trainer for Sun Gym. Lugo wants to get rich (the American dream, ya know) and decides the best way to do that is to rob his massively rich client Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub).
So, after recruiting a team of three (consisting of Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie) the trio kidnap Kershaw (at the third time of asking), take him an abandoned warehouse and force him to sign over his riches. The group decide that it is best to kill Kershaw rather than let him survive, however, they fail to kill him and Kershaw survives. Kershaw’s survival means that P.I. Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) becomes involved, increasing the heat on the hapless criminals.
There is a Tarantinoesque nature about Pain and Gain but without the extreme violence, fun and dark laughs of Taraintino’s filmography it is incomparable. Michael Bay attempts to mix dark comedy with action and violence but fails spectacularly on all counts as his dark humour fails to bring about any laughs. Much of the humour surrounds the haplessness of his antiheros and occasionally dips into homophobic humour. Issues such as this, racial stereotypes and questionable depiction of women have been raised in Bay’s films of late and these issues continue as Bay’s depiction of women does remain somewhat problematic (no woman is given a meaningful role).
Pain and Gain struggles its way over its two hour running time failing to bring about any laughs or stimulate any interest in the central characters. Bay and his screenwriters fail to make any of the anti-heroes particularly likeable or even remotely interesting and or charming and making them likable is vital when it comes to antiheroes, otherwise I’d just want them caught and locked up. The performances of Wahlberg, Johnson, and Mackie are ok at best but they fail to create any chemistry as they struggle to work off each other and unsuccessfully generate any laughs as the cast are hindered by a lacklustre script and poor direction from Bay.
Pain and Gain is so jacked up steroids that it is pretty much impotent and Bay's visual touches enforce this view. Bay, naturally, over does the film visually with needless and prolonged slow motion sequences that really become superficial shortly after the first usage of such slow motion sequences. Used poorly these slow motion sequences become tiresome clichés in a film full of clichés. Things improve a touch when Ed Harris (who is the film's only highlight) arrives on screen; however by then there has been much pain but very little gain.