We’ve all heard the criticisms of Michael Bay’s films, from Armageddon to Pearl Harbor to Transformers, but Pain & Gain looked like it just might break the typical Bay mold. Based on a true story of three men who kidnapped, tortured, and murdered several people in Florida in the 1990s, it seemed that this film might focus more on characters and story than on giant things that explode, and, for the most part, it does. Unfortunately, I would have preferred mindless explosions in another Transformers sequel to this incredibly vulgar film.
Here’s the gist of it: Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a bodybuilder working at the Sun Gym in Miami, Florida who wants more out of his life than his dull, lower standard of living. He wants success and money, and, after attending a motivational session by Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong), he decides to become a “do-er” in order to get what he wants. With the help of body-building friends Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), he sets out to scheme one of Sun Gym’s members, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), out of all of his money, a plan that sends these three men on a crash course that leads to more kidnapping, torture, and murder, ultimately ending with their arrest.
It had a lot of potential. For the most part, I think that the story aspect of this film is quite interesting; true story films always are. However, Bay has made almost a farce out of what is a tragic true story, making light of the actions of these criminals and the consequences of those actions. People died and lives were ruined, yet Bay tries to make it a comedy. While I don’t think that the whole thing should have necessarily been played with a straight face and that humor always has its place, I think that there should have been a cap on the humor presented in the film so that the whole thing is not played off as a joke. Aside from that, the jokes that were in the film never struck me as all that funny, though I must admit that I did laugh a few times.
I also must admit that the performance of the lead characters (the trio and Shalhoub) were admirable; they each played their characters quite well, though Johnson’s portrayal of a born-again Christian who thinks of himself as a gift from God is a bit bothersome to me. Wahlberg’s conviction in the role and occasionally (appropriately) over-the-top character is different from anything I have ever seen him do before, and Mackie’s character was also appropriately hyperactive.
Now I mustn’t get ahead of myself. My overall opinion of this film is negative, no matter what I thought of how interesting the plot could have been or how well the lead actors performed, and it’s all because of one thing: vulgarity. LOTS OF VULGARITY. Everything vulgar you could think of is present in this film: excessive bad language, gore, unnecessary sexual content (no sex, just nudity and toys), etc. All of this combined almost made the film completely unwatchable; the two people I watched it with absolutely hated the film, and, though I enjoyed bits of it, I will never again watch it willingly – that’s how bad it was.
You be the judge. If you can handle all of this vulgarity and don’t mind that Bay has made a joke of a serious series of events, you may enjoy this film, but I wouldn’t recommend it. As stated above, had this movie been a bit more on the PG-13 side of things, I might have walked out of the theater feeling a bit differently, but, Pain & Gain is a film that is definitely worth missing out on, especially if you can’t look past the overwhelmingly obscene aspects of the movie as a whole. Michael Bay started to take a step in the right direction, but I’ll take Transformers over this trash any day.
Rating: 1 (out of 5)
MPAA: R – for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use