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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Pain & Gain
Pain & Gain
Paramount // R // April 26, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted April 25, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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Since 2007, director Michael Bay has been focusing on the Transformers franchise. Robot battles fit into his skill-set very well, as this filmmaker isn't necessarily known for his storytelling skills. In fact, he draws a lot of audiences to the movie theater with his over-the-top visual style. Each of Bay's motion pictures are filled to the brim with explosions and CG-work. He manages to make his action flicks look phenomenal, but they lack in the substance department. These movies are generally known to be summer blockbusters, which can easily be classified as popcorn flicks. After spending so much time with this franchise, almost any director would want to make another feature with an original concept. Pain & Gain can be judged on its own terms, but will it impress audiences?

This action/comedy follows a true story in Miami, Florida in the 1990s. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) are a trio of idiotic bodybuilders. Lugo becomes inspired by a motivational speaker, named Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong). He persuades his fitness buddies, as they decide to kidnap Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub). He's an insanely wealthy man, although he's extremely rude to those around him. This sequence of events inevitably leads them on the path to an incredible amount of greed, which encourages them to continue along this road. After the kidnapping scheme goes terribly wrong, these bodybuilders' fates were sealed.

This film opens by revealing that this is unfortunately a true story, due to the stupidity found within this trio of criminals. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely take a comedic approach to the subject matter, which bothered a few audiences. Some moviegoers found this specific mood to be insulting to the victims who were affected by the crimes, but this point-of-view makes sense. The filmmakers aren't poking fun at the victims, but are mocking the stupidity expressed by the criminals throughout this kidnapping plot. It would be difficult to take these characters' decisions seriously without the humor. Some of the jokes are funny, but a fair amount of them are far too safe. The remainder of the dialogue ranges from poor to fair, but this isn't the primary focus of Pain & Gain.

Michael Bay had the opportunity to work with a solid concept, but it overstays its welcome. The film's running time passes two hours, and its duration begins to leave its mark towards the end of the second act. This extends through the third act, as some of the extra character expositions are unnecessary. Some of these sequences start to become repetitive, as a lot of it feels familiar. The first act establishes some potential, but the majority of the feature doesn't entirely deliver. Pain & Gain becomes increasingly violent, as it approaches its climax. The audience is reminded through multiple plot points that specific events actually happened. Before these moments, audiences will begin to sink into the film's narrative, but the filmmakers reel us back into reality with these scenes. This conveys the picture's ability to keep its viewers entertained. Even though the feature's originality wears off and the running time feels rather long, it manages to be quite entertaining.

The climax introduces a different perspective that isn't seen through the rest of the movie. While the writers take the story rather lightly through the majority of the film, they change the mood for the ending. The humor comes irrelevant, as Pain & Gain starts to focus on the fates of the criminals, as well as the victims. The final act sticks out like a sore thumb, as it simply feels forced. If this portion was as fluid as the first act's introduction, perhaps this could have been a worthwhile conclusion. Unfortunately, it's quite underwhelming. It feels the need to remind us why this trio of bodybuilders are unlikable, which displays the small amount of faith this movie has in its audience. Regardless, Markus and McFeely's screenplay could have been a lot worse.

Moviegoers will instantly recognize the main cast members. Mark Wahlberg commands attention in his representation of Daniel Lugo. He clearly gained a lot of muscle mass for this character, and he's entirely convincing in this role. Even though he's a familiar face, it never detracts from his believability. Dwayne Johnson presents one of his better performances as Paul Doyle. While it isn't groundbreaking, he conveys more emotion than one would expect from this action star. He has a solid comedic relationship with Wahlberg, which works on screen. Anthony Mackie is convincing as the third member of the group, who is named Adrian Doorbal. The three of these actors interact quite nicely. Rebel Wilson appears in a small supporting role as Ramona Eldridge. This welcome addition allows for some extra humor, which is expressed through her undeniable charm.

This director is famous for his visual techniques, especially when it comes to the big explosions. Pain & Gain's style is also over-the-top, but in different ways. There aren't a lot of gun fights, but Michael Bay utilizes a large amount of montage edits, slow-motion shots, and gritty colors. The atmosphere has a suitably dirty look, which successfully places viewers into Daniel Lugo's perspective. Bay still uses an aggressive sound design, as he provides a large amount of deep bass. The score fits extremely well, even though portions of it sound quite familiar. Michael Bay fans and casual moviegoers will find the visuals to be entirely satisfying.

Pain & Gain directly attacks the jugular, as this film remains in your face throughout the picture's duration. There isn't anything subtle about Michael Bay's action/comedy. Whether or not you're offended by the screenwriters' comedic approach to this true story, the plot itself isn't bad. It will keep viewers entertained, even if you aren't entirely amused by the humor. However, they clearly lose faith in the audience by reminding us how we should perceive particular characters. The running time feels quite a bit longer than it actually is, but there's enough bulk to make this worth a rental.

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