Tuesday, April 30, 2013

All Pain. No Gain.

Pain and Gain
written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
directed by Michael Bay
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Duane Johnson, Anthony Mackie and Tony Shalhoub
Rated R
129 Minutes

The best thing that can be said about Michael Bay's "Pain and Gain" is that, like most of its characters, it is pumped full of steroids.  This is such a sporadic and clumsy picture, that to call it incoherent would pay it a compliment.  I think what "Pain and Gain" proves is what I've always suspected - Michael Bay is not a first unit director.  He belongs in a special effects department, blowing stuff up real good and staying as far as possible from everyone else.

Supposedly, Michael Bay wanted to slow things down after delivering three "Transformers" blockbusters.  Well, wouldn't you know, "Pain and Gain" speeds things up exponentially, almost rendering those Autobots comatose.  It begins with a manic chase scene, only to rewind about four weeks to show a manic montage of Mark Wahlberg totally going nuts before REALLY totally going nuts.  He's been off the rails before, but I'm almost convinced he filmed this entire movie completely under the influence.  Strangely enough, "Pain and Gain" actually provides Duane Johnson one of his best roles yet, and he shows quite a range here in a film that doesn't deserve his performance.

"Pain and Gain" is 'unfortunately based on a true story' and chronicles three low life fitness freaks and the bizarre and gruesome crime spree they unleash in Miami during the 90's .  Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is employed with a Miami gym doing....well, not much of anything.  He seems to live by the philosophy "if I think I deserve it, the universe will serve it."  If you happen to have any friends that believe similarly, do yourself a favor and unfriend them on Facebook; the universe will thank you, I promise.  Daniel takes to envying a client named Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) and decides he wants "everything he has."  In order to take it, Daniel recruits Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (Duane Johnson), two other body builders with nothing better to do.

What follows is a shamefully irreverent movie that defies categorization.  At first, "Pain and Gain" is supposedly a comedy, considering that the three criminals try crazy things like dressing up as ninjas to kidnap Kershaw.  Then, as the crime gets progressively more involved and the stakes become higher, there are jarring tonal shifts that are uncomfortable and awkward.  Bay apparently has no sense of comic timing; but what's most baffling is that he finds any of this funny at all.  Considering the unspeakable cruelty committed toward characters in this film,  I couldn't help but realize that the characters are based, however loosely, on real people.  If I were the families of the victims, I'd send Bay hate mail for the rest of my life.

With that said, I must concede that Duane Johnson is the best part about any scene he's in.  It's just too bad the material is so abhorrent, because this is exactly the kind of performance Johnson needs to widen his use. Mackie isn't weighty enough to leave an impression either way (and a running gag throughout the film is that he can't impress at all, if you know what I mean).  Popping up late in the game is the always welcome Ed Harris, basically pulling a glorified cameo here as a Private Detective that is apparently given international jurisdiction to chase Lugo to the Bahamas.

Do yourself a favor.  Do not see "Pain and Gain."  You'll only assist deluding Michael Bay into thinking he can make something good outside of "Transformers."  You'll also be party to finding humor in a series of events that aren't the least bit funny.  Sure, these guys were idiots, but they were idiots who had no regard for human life.  So why should anyone fork over money to watch a completely wrong-headed film that attempts to make light of anything they did?  I guess you could sum it up with that line: "if I think I deserve it, the universe will serve it."  And we wonder what's wrong with America.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

It’s probably the most truly crazy, ludicrous, self-reflexive, irony-free, bizarre, and entertaining film Michael Bay has ever made. That’s a compliment, too. Good review Clayton.