Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde star in this romantic drama directed by Shana Feste.
Michael Bay directs this true crime comedy about three Miami bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) who embark on an ill-fated kidnapping scheme in attempt to improve their mundane lives.
I think Michael Bay must have been watching a lot of Coen brothers films when he decided to make Pain & Gain. The darkly comic plot about a bunch of numbskull bodybuilders who think they can cheat their way to a life of luxury by kidnapping a rich gym member and extorting money from him could be lifted straight out of one of Joel and Ethan’s screenplays. Heck, there’s even a severed toe (see The Big Lebowski). The story in fact takes its inspiration from a real-life crime spate in mid-90s Florida - though, as in most true crime movies, names have been changed and liberties taken for the sake of entertainment.
Mark Wahlberg is Daniel Lugo, a personal trainer in a Miami gym who is sick of cow-towing to rich clients. When the highly affluent and deeply unpleasant fast food chain owner Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) enrols at the gym, Daniel hatches a plan to kidnap Victor and steal his money, with a little help from his workout buddies, the buff but impotent Adrian (Anthony Mackie) and naïve ex-con Paul (Dwayne Johnson). “I’ve watched a lot of movies, I know what I’m doing,” says Daniel as they make their way to the heist. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as it happens, pretty much everything, leaving Daniel, his side-kicks and the audience to look on in horror as events take an increasingly violent and grisly turn.
Now, in a Coen Brothers film, this would be the perfect platform for the sort of gallows humour we’ve come to know and love in films like Fargo, No Country For Old Men and Burn After Reading (also, notably, set in a gym). But this is a Michael Bay film, and anyone who has sampled even a small portion of the director’s past work will know what that means: macho men performing macho deeds; vacuous, chesty women in skimpy outfits, and a fair amount of things smashing into other things (fists into faces, cars into walls, really heavy weights onto people’s heads etc.) - all accompanied by a blaring soundtrack, which in this instance happens to be Coolio’s 'Gangsta’s Paradise'. Any scope for nuance and subtlety gets pounded into oblivion pretty fast, making the juxtaposition between hilarity and horror seem a bit tasteless, especially when you take into account the fact that these events supposedly happened in real life.
To be fair to Bay, Pain & Gain is certainly more thought-provoking and restrained than, say, his Transformers movies. He even has a go at creating subtext, albeit by framing a shot of the Stars & Stripes through the barbed wire of a prison fence and getting his money-grabbing characters to repeat the words ‘American Dream’ again and again and again. But it’s the casting that ultimately saves the day. Wahlberg and Mackie give it their all to make their despicable characters if not likeable, then definitely compelling, while Dwayne Johnson’s unquestionable charisma radiates through even the most tawdry of scenes.
Michael Bay employs his trademark sledgehammer subtlety to make some sort of point about greed and the American Dream. The uneasy blend of comedy and ultra-violence will turn some viewers off but, if you can stomach it, you may find yourself curiously entertained.
Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival... The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc
As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to
The best all-singing, all-dancing showstoppers every committed to screen
A summary of the critics and film professionals who voted for the top 50 Horror films of the 21st Century
@Film4 We’ve a great late night highlight for you. Bill Murray stars in the Film4-backed Hyde Park On Hudson at 1.25am https://t.co/votvYWuy0r
@Film4 First play alert! Bill Murray stars as president Roosevelt in the Film4-backed comedy Hyde Park On Hudson. Tune in… https://t.co/XrW9QBeWyZ
@Film4 Stifler and the gang are back and up to their old antics in American Pie sequel American Reunion. Tune in at 11.15pm https://t.co/efZ4EKzvpR
@Film4 @Jockessq Spelling aside, 4/4!
@Film4 @islingtonlloyd 3 out of 4, Lloyd! I'm afraid we're not counting Coffee & Cigarettes as a cameo because he's a main character in his segment