The idea of Michael Bay directing “Pain & Gain” is a strange fit. It’s like Wes Craven deciding to make a romantic comedy or Adam Sandler deciding to appear in something half-decent, it just doesn’t sound right. Over the past few years, if a film doesn’t have a $100 million budget or feature robots, then Bay hasn’t wanted to touch it. The idea of him directing a crime drama with a hint of black comedy doesn’t sound right but to his credit, he does largely pull it off.
“Pain & Gain” is based on a real crime case, a case where three dim-witted gym-junkies – Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg – “2 Guns,” “Broken City), Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson – “Furious 6,” “Empire State”) and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie – “The Fifth State,” “Gangster Squad”) – decide to listen to shonky motivational speaker Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong – “Turbo,” “Despicable Me 2”) and change their lives forever.
Unfortunately, the way they decide to change their lives by taking the money of (and everything else owned by) obnoxious businessman Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub – “Movie 43,” “Cars 2”). Of course, the way they decide to make that happen is to kidnap him and virtually torture him, which seems to work as even the Police don’t believe Kershaw’s story, but all that might change when retired Detective, Ed DuBois (Ed Harris – “Snowpiercer,” “Phantom”) begins to take an interest in the case.
Watching “Pain & Gain” is an unusual experience, it almost feels like a guilty pleasure. At times the screenplay seems to be really up and down, some of the jokes hit and some miss. When they miss they miss badly and add that to Michael Bay’s (“Transformers Franchise,” “The Island”) sometimes unusual style of shooting this film, there are times when audience members may find themselves groaning.
But then on the flip-side this film is also a fun watch. There are plenty of times when the humour works very well and Bay playfully plays that up with comments like “this is still a true story” when the true crime element of the film seems to stretch the imagination. The one thing that “Pain & Gain” never becomes though is boring; the story is just too damn engrossing and interesting to ever allow that to happen.
When it comes to the acting of “Pain & Gain,” Mark Wahlberg just seems to breeze his way through the acting side of his role. The fact that he has sculptured his body so well to play Daniel Lugo is proof that he really does know the meaning of being a character actor. Poor Ed Harris and Anthony Mackie seem to almost get forgotten as the film goes on, while Tony Shalhoub seems to have a handle on the comedy relief. The big standout in “Pain & Gain” though is Dwayne Johnson. Yes, he was probably cast in the role because of his ex-wrestler physique, but Mr. Johnson actually delivers a pretty decent comedic performance as well; he is one of the actors that never seems to miss his comedy mark in the film. It seems like The Rock may have found another bow in his armory.
“Pain & Gain” is hardly one of the best films of the year, but it is an entertaining watch and seems to mix crime and comedy together with just the right recipe.