Ever since the first Transformers film I have attempted to avoid Michael Bay films. People’s hatred for Michael Bay is well documented and I don’t need to add to it. Just know that the only Michael Bay film I ever enjoyed was The Island. While that movie gets plenty of its’ own negative responses, I can’t help but love it. To be fair Scarlett Johansson mixed with science fiction will always be a win in my book. Scarlett Johansson mixed with anything really is a win in my book. Despite my dislike for nearly everything Michael Bay related, I thought I would give Pain and Gain a shot. It seemed unique and I thought I would enjoy seeing the director go out of his comfort zone. I was wrong.
Pain and Gain is based (loosely) on a true story that follows bodybuilder/personal trainer Daniel Lugo (Marky Mark) on a journey to self-discovery. He wants more out of his life. He feels like he deserves it and that others do not deserve what they have. Lugo gets some buddies, Paul Doyle (the Rock) and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), to plan a kidnapping of a wealthy businessman named Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub). What follows is amateur criminals attempting a professional extortion. Everything about their execution is difficult to watch.
The film had me hooked for the first half. It was flowing like you would expect it to. A bunch of idiot criminals attempting to mastermind a plan to get rich. They fail a few times but keep trying and you can’t help but to grow attached to these characters. Unfortunately that quickly changes as their crimes start to build up and their actions become inexcusable. The criminals continue to make infuriating choices that will have you yelling at the screen. The movie continues to spin out of control until all three criminals hit “Rock” bottom. Then it gets worse.
Finally near the end of the film a brief reminder appears on the screen during a ridiculous scene that states, “This is still a true story”. This moment is a sigh of relief as it reminds the audience that this film is supposed to be mocking the amateur criminals who were way over their heads. Too bad this moment occurred so late in the film. I had already quit on the movie and was ready to leave at this point. The problem was that the middle chunk of the movie felt as if the director wanted you to sympathize with these morons. It took crime too lightly and was attempting to throw in humor a bit too hard. Michael Bay seems to continuously treat disrespecting women and hardcore cocaine addictions as just another day. The film really left me confused as how to feel and I was very disappointed in that. Had they provided more moments of self-mockery then maybe I would have sat back and enjoyed watching the knuckleheads continue to make amateur mistakes. Instead the dark tones, the attempt to paint the characters as lovable imbeciles and poor humor really took this film down.
I understand that Michael Bay does not deserve all the blame for the film’s downfall. After all the story is allegedly true and that is what really damaged this movie. The story and the characters were mindboggling and infuriating. That is a fair point but the frustrating part of the film is that I understand what the filmmakers were going for but they failed to execute what would have been easy to capture. Plus after doing some minor research it is easy to see that the screenwriter (Christopher Markus, Captain America- The First Avenger) took a good amount of liberties to the true story. If he felt comfortable altering major plot points (for instance, basically making up the Rock’s character) then he could have made some actual good alterations.
The basic flaw from this film stems from its lack of executing their attempted mockery of the characters. A simple reminder half way through the film or some humorous narration from a third part perspective (narration from all the characters was a major part of the film that also held it back) would have done the trick. Instead Michael Bay got stuck in between the true mockery he set out to make and a third Bad Boys. He did not have a clear direction in mind and the film, and ultimately the audience, suffered from it.
Kevin G’s Rating: 4/10 (or 2/5 for those math nerds who love to reduce fractions)