Michael Bay is probably one of the most hated film directors among film geeks and fanboys working today. Seriously! People hate this fucking guy! Well, I’m not one of those haters. I think he’s actually talented, though I think he doesn’t know how to use that talent at times. Okay, so I haven’t liked half his films but I don’t think he deserves to be hated. Brett Ratner I understand cause he’s boring, but at least Bay does interesting things visually. I didn’t care for the first BAD BOYS but I loved the fucked up craziness of BAD BOYS 2. THE ROCK was a fun action picture, ARMAGEDDON was a bloated blockbuster mess (but fun!). However, PEARL HARBOR is where he hit a wall. When he tries to be serious, his bombastic style just doesn’t fit and it becomes overkill. Same thing with THE ISLAND. I didn’t like the first TRANSFORMERS but thought the second one an improvement (an opinion I know that I’m mostly alone on). And I thought the last TRANSFORMERS movie was a big pile of trash. That first hour of that is probably the worst thing he’s ever put on film. When I heard about his latest, PAIN & GAIN, I didn’t really think of it much. Didn’t care if I saw it or not.
This is supposedly based on a true story, and it just might be crazy enough to BE true. Set in the mid-90’s, Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo a bulky bodybuilder who works as a personal trainer at a Gym. He’s obsessive about fitness, but feels like he deserves more than just trying to make fat people fit. He wants the luxuries in life. He gets the idea of kidnapping and torturing a rich client of his (Tony Shaloub) to get his money and assets. He enlists the help of one of his co-workers Adrian (Anthony Mackie), who has penis problems due to his use of steroids. The two end up meeting an ex-con/ex-alcoholic/ex-cokehead/born-again-Christian named Paul. They talk him into being the “muscle man” on the job. Of course, like most crime pictures, things go extremely wrong and as the movie goes on, the bonehead trio just get deeper and deeper in some crazy shit.
The plot may not sound like a comedy, but that’s how I viewed it. This movie is fucking funny! I laughed my ass off throughout most of the running time. I think the main reason for that is because these characters are freakin’ morons! How they handle every single situation is laugh-out-loud funny. Daniel is so serious about his plans and so confident in what he’s doing that it makes even more humorous when he can’t do anything right. These 3 guys together probably have the combined I.Q. of about 45.
Also, this movie just plain NUTS! It’s not just the ludicrous situations, (which involve sex toys, severed body parts, smashed heads, silicone tits, and a sex scene with Nunchucks!) but it’s the film’s frenetic style too. Everything is over-the-top stylistically, which make the many violent situations extremely funny. Michael Bay uses every kind of technical trick in the book. We get handheld chases, gratuitous slow motion, extravagant crane shots, inventive use of stedi-cams, and the trademark “Michael Bay” dolly slo-mo shot. It’s an overuse of stylistic excess. But that almost seemed to be part of the punchline. It’s as if Bay was listening to all of the bitching by all of his haters and just said, “Fuck you!” And went even further. It’s likely to irritate and possibly piss a lot of people off, but I got a huge kick out of it. I not only laughed at the actors and the situations, but also laughed at several shots, which I found to be the part of the joke on several occasions.
In a high-octane crazy flick such as this, you’re going to have to match that kind of filmmaking with nutty performances, and this movie is chock full of them. Mark Wahlberg delivers what could be his funniest comedic performance of his career. Because Daniel takes himself so seriously is why he’s so funny. I love that he talks about SCARFACE and THE GODFATHER as if they were real. This guy is absolutely clueless and Wahlberg takes the character all the way. He also makes some of the funniest slo-mo and freeze-frame faces. And the looks he makes when he’s working out… God, he’s just so serious….. it makes me giggle. He got up to 215 pounds for the role! That’s crazy. It’s a very committed performance. He goes all the way with it. Anthony Mackie is also quite good as Daniel’s partner in crime. He has one of the film’s funniest lines after something tragic happens. His reaction is hysterical. Dwayne Johnson….. fantastic! His big dumb lug of a character is outstanding. His comic timing is also spot on. The scene when he robs a bank and sits in a beauty salon going through the bag… Holy shit! The other performers do fine work too. Rebel Wilson has her moments as Mackie’s rotund girlfriend. Tony Shaloub gets a lot to do here as the victim of the kidnapping, and he’s fun to watch. Ed Harris shows up halfway through the movie to investigate the crime, and he’s awesome! I didn’t even mind the normally irritating Ken Jeong and Rob Corddry.
Michael Bay has directed one of the most entertaining comedies of the past year. Like I said, his level of excess is set on overload this time. But it fits the craziness of the plot and the performances like a glove. Another thing that made this really funny was the constant (and random) voice-overs from various characters and subtitles that made things even funnier. Johnson’s character is doing something that is just bonkers, then a subtitle appears telling us that “this is still based on a true story”. That got a big old belly laugh from me. Oh yeah, in case I haven’t mentioned, this movie is DARK, DARK and DARK! It’s a jet black comedy. Very violent. Definitely not for the squeamish, but some of the film’s funniest scenes involve some pretty outright disgusting things. You laugh because of how violent and gross it is. Also, the song choices are also part of the jokes. The uses of “Gangster’s Paradise”, “Everybody Dance Now”, and “Blaze of Glory” are just perfect.
Should you go see PAIN & GAIN? Well, how much do you hate Michael Bay? Cause if you really hate his style, you are going to HATE this movie. The closest of his movies this is like is definitely BAD BOYS II. If you liked that one, then you should without a doubt have a ball with this. I’m not sure just how prepared the mainstream public is for this movie. It’s not a safe Hollywood film. It’s surprisingly bold for how far it goes, but Bay has displayed big balls in the past. I don’t like it when he tries for seriousness. I think Bay is right at home making wacky R Rated violence comedies like this one. It’s nice to see him do a film for a smaller budget too. Surprisingly, this only cost 25 million, which is impressive since it looks like it cost about 125 million.
I had a blast! Is this movie going to change the world? No! Win any awards? Fuck no! Is it enormously entertaining? Yes! Did I laugh harder than any other movie I’ve seen in the theater this year? Hell yes! It’s a dark, violent and very hilarious comedy. It’s crass, crude, vulgar, raunchy, gross, gratuitous, and I loved every minute of it. This is a big middle finger to all the Michael Bay haters. And for that, I give him big props. ★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
– Rated R for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use.
– Running time: 2hrs. 9min.