Pain & Gain (2013) Short Review (R)
The Premise: Ummm… ‘Fargo’ on steroids… A self absorbed, amoral personal South Florida fitness trainer Dan Lugo(Mark Wahlberg) hatches ‘a simple plan’ to get rich quick by kidnapping a millionaire, then strong-arming him into signing over his fortune. Oh… And (loosely) based on actual events.
Why You Should See It: Well, maybe everyone shouldn’t. Michael Bay isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re easily offended by Michael Bay. Does that make sense? Michael Bay has a low brow sense of humor… Most critics do not, which explains the film’s (unfairly) low rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ll admit, I didn’t see this in theaters because my favorite movie critic declared that this wasn’t just a bad film, but this was in fact “evil”, which is just a ridiculous statement stemming from an inability to be subjective when it comes to judging someone’s film who probably doesn’t have views that jibe with his own. And critics are generally selective when it comes to what they’re offended by, anyway.
‘Pain & Gain’ is one of Bay’s better films… And, no that’s not backhanded, faint praise. I mentioned Fargo which it is similar to in a few respects, but in reality, this probably owes more to ‘Scarface’, the story of a petty criminal’s rise to top of the trash heap (and his ultimate fall). Pain & Gain, is a far better film, though, IMHO, and never glorifies its main player(s) as that over the top Coppolla crapfest does. Yes, I said it. You heard me. Scarface was a crap movie. Never once, did I feel that Bay was admiring Lugo and his imbecilic partners in crime (two of whom are played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Anthonie Mackie) as his detractors have accused him of. It is a tragic sequence of events (That mostly DID happen), but Bay has to admired for finding a humorous tone that allows him to tell the story in most of its horribly gory details without gawking. I was expecting progressions of torture porn, but Bay focused mainly on the absurdly stupid mentality of the criminals involved. I laughed throughout, so I guess I’m a little more low brow than most of the movie critics that I listen to. Either that or I feel like I’ve known some people a little like those in the film… I don’t think they killed anyone, though.
Mark Wahlberg is great here as he usually is. Tony Shalhoub is great is the somewhat unlikeable victim of Lugo’s schemes, but he’s generally pretty good in everything, as is Ed Harris who has a smaller role as a retired private investigator. Worth seeing if you don’t mind watching a film that you know is not going to have a happy ending, nor should it have). I was semi-familiar with the story, since it did occur here in Florida (even if I’m in the panhandle), but knowing the story didn’t detract from seeing it unfold onscreen. This was not as much like watching a train wreck, as like watching a bunch of ‘smart cars’ smashing into one another at high speed. Horrible, but funny in a gallows humor sort of way. Not for everyone, the film portrays a group of amoral thugs, but is not amoral itself as many critics have suggested. And it was far better than I was expecting it to be, primarily because I listened to critics that hate Michael Bay.