By Dan Metcalf
Clipper Film Correspondent
Pain and Gain (Paramount)
Rated R for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Bar Paly, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, Michael Rispoli, Keili Lefkovitz, Emily Rutherfurd, Larry Hankin, Tony Plana, Vivi Pineda.
Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on magazine articles by Pete Collins.
Directed by Michael Bay.
I have long lamented the existence of the films produced or (especially) directed by Michael Bay. He's a man who got his start by directing videos for Playboy, and even though I have never seen any of his Playboy “art”, I assume it has to be his best, since just about everything else he's been involved with ever since is terrible. Bay has a knack for making films about heroes, often using slow motion, filters and lighting that display characters as if they belong in a recruiting commercial. That said, I attended the Pain and Gain screening not knowing that Michael Bay had anything to do with it until the end credits rolled. When it was revealed that Bay was in fact the movie's director, I said to myself, “Oh, that's why I hated it so much.”
Pain and Gain is apparently a true story about a group of fitness idiots on steroids who went on an elaborate crime spree back in the 1990s. Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo, an ex-con working as a personal trainer at a Miami gym where he meets Victor (Tony Shalhoub), a successful jewish/Colombian businessman, and one of the gym's patrons. Lugo is friends with co-worker Adrian Dorbal (Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), another patron and ex-con.
Tired of being a working stiff, Lugo is inspired by a get-rich-quick huckster (Ken Jeong) who convinces him that getting rich takes aggressive action. Lugo hatches a plan, which involves kidnapping Victor and forcing him to sign over his assets. Adrian and Paul join his scheme and kidnap Victor, keeping him tied up inside a sex toy warehouse for several days, torturing, drugging and beating him until he succumbs. They also draw Lugo's boss John (Rob Corddry) into the plan, since they need a notary for the documents signed by Victor.
Once the trio gains access to all of Victor's money and possessions, they decide that they must kill their victim in order to get away with it. They fill Victor with alcohol, pour gasoline over him and his car, and crash it into a wall. When the crash fails to kill Victor, they decide to run him over, leaving him for dead. But Victor is hard to kill and survives. Victor is taken to a hospital, where police do not believe his story about the kidnapping, thinking he's some crazy drunk. He eventually moves to a seedy motel and hires Ed Dubois (Ed Harris), a private investigator and retired police officer to find out what happened to his money.
In the mean time, Lugo, Adrian and Paul run out of Victor's money, leading them to plot another kidnapping and extortion, this time using a porn king and his girlfriend. Their plans change when their latest victims die and they are unable to get into their safe. The trio decides to hack up the couple's bodies and cram them into drums that they eventually dump into a swamp.
I'm going to go ahead and spoil the movie by letting you know that the idiots get caught and prosecuted.
Pain and Gain is a terrible film that tries to be a dark comedy, and fails. It has all the same, stupid Bay-like cinematography you've seen in all his other films, only this time, the tools of Bay's trade are used to tell the story of perhaps the stupidest criminals ever. Bay gets a little credit for trying something other than he regular hero worship fare, but it seems he went way too far in the other direction. The dark comedy ends up looking like glorified violence, much like Bay's other movies, only this time, you're rooting against the main characters. It's like Fargo on steroids.
Wahlberg seems the most invested into his role as an idiot on steroids, which gets annoying in the first act. Dwayne Johsnon is equally annoying, while trying to play a born-again christian with a violent temper.
Pain and Gain might be one of the worst films of the year, so do yourself a favor. Exercise a little restraint and avoid it like steroids.