Pain & Gain (Movie Review) – Michael Bay’s latest, while entertaining, establishes a new low for the director

Pain & Gain. (2013). Run Time: 123 mins. MPAA: R (for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use). Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, and Ed Harris. Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Directed by Michael Bay.

I try not to let a director‘s credentials allow me to be prejudiced toward his/her latest movie. I cannot help it, though, when I see a film is directed by Michael Bay. He tends to be that guy that approaches a story secured by a dedicated fan base and unashamedly storms in guns blazing with no other purpose than to wreck havoc and crush dreams. He did it with Transformers and God only knows what he will ruin with his upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We know he is making them turtles from an alien planet, which already crushes the entire origin story. So, in between the third and a-little-better-than-the-second Transformers movie and the Ninja Turtles reboot, Bay decides to give audiences a film that centers on senseless and often disgusting violence and attempts to garner lots of laughs. Does it work? That’s entirely up to the individual. As for me, I will say that if you laugh at anything in the first two acts, fine. Sick, but fine. But if you laugh at al during the third act of Pain & Gain, you are a disgusting individual.

If you aren’t sure why I am being so harsh on Pain & Gain, I will explain. This movie centers around the true story of a couple of body builders in the mid 90s who decide to kidnap and steal everything from the rich new guy who comes to their gym. Throughout the story there are beatings, cutting off of limbs, and murders. Now I have nothing against a filmmaker taking a real story such as this and making a graphic and realistic film about the events. You may think I am just hating on this one case because I hate director Michael Bay. But, as the first line of this review clearly states, that is far from the case. I found this film offensive, not just because of Bay himself, but because of the atmosphere he creates. Bay makes this a comedy. Nearly every line in this movie is spoken in such a way that is aiming for laughs. Sometimes it is achieved. I laughed quite a bit in Pain & Gain. What with Mark Wahlberg being his awesome self and Dwayne Johnson being a Jesus loving evangelical witness. It was extremely funny. But it’s around the third act that it just becomes too much. Michael Bay either isn’t aware, or just doesn’t care, that these events are real, and the victims’ families are still alive and the criminals are currently on death row. Does this movie glorify the actions committed? Not at all. But the problem lies in the fact that Michael Bay takes these horrendous events way too lightly. Maybe it’s just me (from the reviews I’ve read, though, I know it isn’t), but I feel that, even though as a film it isn’t as bad as, say, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, this is actually a new low for Michael Bay.

All offensive elements aside, Pain & Gain, as a movie, isn’t that good anyway. Anytime Michael Bay is attached to a movie, there are a few things you know you are going to get: lots of drugs, drinking, sex, and random half dressed women (and in the case of his R-rated films, some bare boobs thrown in there). Pain & Gain is an R-rated Michael Bay film, and yes, all of that is included. There are lots of drugs. Drinking, not so much, but drugs, oh my yes. And, as Michael Bay is so proudly known for, there is a lot of skimpy girls. Some boobs also. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. At least, not when it’s done right. I like girls just as much as the next guy. Here to hate, once again, on Michael Bay, yours truly. He uses women to market his movies, which really gets under my skin. Unlike a lot of Oscar nominated films that feature plenty of nudity and sex, Bay uses it when he nothing else to lean on. Here is the Michael Bay standard: whenever a scene has nothing to entertain the audience and is feeling dry, just throw in a half naked girl with her boobs popping out of her bra and that should satisfy them. I’m sick of it. Screw you, Michael Bay.

All complaining aside, one cannot deny the unnecessary hilarity the actors bring to this disheartening situation. I know, it isn’t funny at all. But with what they were given, the cast does a bang up job. Mark Wahlberg leads the cast as the leader of the crew that does the job, and he is pretty dang good. Wahlberg showed his acting props in The Departed, one of my all time favorite movies, back in 2006. He even earned an Oscar nomination. Then, in The Other Guys, he was comedic gold alongside Will Ferrell. But how about Ted? My word was he great in that movie. That fight scene with the computer generated Teddy bear is a scene that will never be forgotten. In Pain & Gain, he continues to display his range. Alongside him is Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, a fantastic performance from him in that fantastic film), who does a good job at playing Wahlberg’s accomplice. But the standout here is Dwayne Johnson, in his third of four releases in 2013 alone. The first two being the surprisingly good Snitch (which earned him serious acting props for me) and the average action flick G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Here, he takes a new role all together. Remember when he played the Tooth Fairy? Weird, right. Now watch him a play an ex convict turn saved Christian witness who is constantly spitting out Bible verses. He’s in one of his most entertaining performances here. Also giving a performance on the level of Dwayne Johnson is Ed Harris. He is crazy cool in this movie. Tony Shalhoub turns in a good performance as the rich newcomer, and he was entertaining as well.

FINAL VERDICT: Michael Bay’s comedic movie that depicts horrendous real life events is just what it sounds like it would be: offensive. Is it entertaining? Oh yes. Do a few laughs come with it? Yes. It’s just that when you laugh, you will feel at a crossroads because you aren’t sure if you should give in to the sick humor that Bay provides or feel offended. You may laugh during the film, but it’s when you walk out you will realize how sick and twisted it really is, which is why I have to give it a negative grade. (D+)

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