Film review of ‘Pain & Gain’ : More pain than gain, but Marky Mark entertains

Michael Bay’s latest is mercifully void of robot trucks and wooden catwalk models. It’s a return to bombastic Bad Boys machismo, except this time we’re with the crims and the cops are woefully inefficient. Following the real-life exploits of Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg), a low-life body builder who yearns for the high life, the film starts off as a surprisingly serviceable actioner with quotable one-liners and an emphasis on the laughs – and laugh I did, heartily, several times.

 

The film triples its ridiculousness with Lugo’s bid to steal the fortune of a self-made entrepreneur, a man he coaches at a fitness centre. His team consists of best friend Adrian (Mackie) and Anthony (Johnson aka The Rock). With barely a brain cell between the three, their plan is doomed by endless complications. As their every action creates more calamity, so the plot becomes increasingly surreal. Occasionally title cards appear to remind us: you are still watching a ‘true story’.

Pain & Gain is frequently so absurd and so knowingly audacious that initially you can only admire Bay’s offhanded, indiscriminate political incorrectness. Wahlberg and co are clearly having a ball with the material, so why shouldn’t we? Somewhere during the second half, however, when the fast-paced objective perspective on these balls-out high jinks turns more subjective, the tone becomes darker and the laughs lessen. That’s not to say that the gags stop coming, just that the quips revolving around breast implants and chronic diarrhoea are less effective than the knowing irony that dominates the first half.

Bay is something of a mystery. A master of explosive spectacles, even if he’s made the most expensive critical clunkers in cinema history (Pearl Harbor, Armageddon), they always manage to turn a considerable penny. Pain & Gain easily beats his three Transformers films to lay claim to being his best in recent years, maybe since the silly-yet-satisfying The Rock (1996). However, this is mostly faint praise, and by the halfway mark, Pain & Gain has outstayed its welcome. The indulgent running time lapses into tedium, rendering the considerable pain of enduring the final act barely worth the gain.

 

 

 

 

 

Pain & Gain (15)
Dir: Michael Bay; US comedy/crime, 129 mins, 2013; Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie
Premiered September 5
Playing nationwide




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