Pain & Gain
Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub, Bar Paly. (2013, R, 130 min.)
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., April 26, 2013
Usually Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest-type comedies leave me cold, but this tale of the crime spree of three near-idiots is somehow both comical and charming. As it asserts more than once, the film is based on a true story.
Fitness trainer Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) talks two friends, Doyle (Johnson) and Doorbal (Mackie), into helping him kidnap profoundly obnoxious millionaire Victor Kershaw (Shalhoub). The plan is to make Kershaw sign over all his holdings to them. Although everything goes almost exactly the opposite as planned, eventually that’s what happens.
It takes longer to successfully kidnap Kershaw than expected. When they finally get him, he proves a tough nut to crack. It takes so long to get him to cooperate that he figures out who they are. They decide that means they have to kill him, but they louse that up just as spectacularly as they screw up everything else.
Surviving the murder attempt, Kershaw is such an abrasive, condescending pig that the cops don’t believe his story. So he hires a private detective (Harris) to track them down. Meanwhile, all Lugo wants is the American dream and a tractor lawn mower. Doorbal finds true love while clean and sober, and born-again Doyle falls off every wagon he’s on or near.
One of the dirty secrets of modern American filmmaking is what a skilled director Michael Bay really is. He doesn’t make great movies (though I would argue mightily for Armageddon and Bad Boys II being very good) but rather cold, explosive, larger-than-life, CGI cinematic thrill rides. Here the focus is more human, the ambitions less grandiose. It’s a cops-and-criminals story economically done, with Bay’s usual excesses all running toward documenting the dumb and clueless this time.
The film is all Miami bright and plastic – beautiful people in a beautiful setting in an ultimately ugly city. Boasting limited ambitions, there is something raw and funny about this tale of the spectacularly inept. Yes, the canon invoked for this film is that of the Three Stooges, but it’s still not as magnificently berserk as they can be. Set your expectations carefully for this one.