There may only be two movies opening this week, but it has truly been an exhausting experience. As if The Big Wedding wasn’t bad enough, along comes Michael Bay to pummel our patience into the ground with Pain & Gain. While the screenplay from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely may be based on true accounts (from Pete Collins’ “Magazine Articles” for the Miami New Times), Bay continues to prove he knows nothing about tone. Let alone the fact that he tries to revolve a movie around three would-be criminals, he condones their actions by making them the heroes and flipping the bird at the actual victims.
Pain & Gain accounts the tale of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), personal fitness trainer and body builder at the Sun Gym in Miami, Florida. Lugo is a big dreamer with a skewed view of the American Dream. After Lugo takes on a new client, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), who rattles on and on about all of his money for hours on end (and attends self-help guru Johnny Wu’s seminar on becoming a Doer, not a Don’ter), Lugo decides that he’s had enough of sitting second fiddle to self-made “losers” who don’t deserve what they have. Along with fresh out of prison Jesus-freak Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), fellow body builder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), and illegal immigrant stripper Sorina Luminita (Bar Paly), they hatch a plan to get everything Victor owns handed over to them.
To say Bay expects us to sympathize with the trio of baddies is to belittle what’s going on here. Wahlberg was obviously hired for his motor-mouth skills to go along with his physique, but surely he was also brought on to bring some likeability to such a fowl character as the manipulative Lugo. “The Rock” continues to bring his charisma and shows how pea-brained Doyle is, but any kind of true charm flies out the window once the character gets hooked on cocaine. Anthony Mackie has very little to do and doesn’t even come close to matching the body mass of Wahlberg and Doyle, but that has more to do with the fact that his character joins Lugo’s schemes to make up for his physical shortcomings (read: erectile dysfunction).
Alas, all the typical Bay idiosyncrasies rear their heads — gun fights, explosions, slow motion, explosions in slow motion, walking away from explosions in slow motion, homophobia, misogyny, spinning cameras — none of his usual tricks get left behind. With his next film being a pseudo-reboot of his own Transformers series (with poor Wahlberg attached no less), maybe the best we can hope for is Bay to get back to playing with his toys. Although considering he’s been recently apologizing for some of his films, rather being misquoted or not, Pain & Gain is certainly lots of pain, with absolutely no gain, and it’s just another notch on Bay’s belt of contempt for audiences.
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