Pain & Gain

Pain & Gain

2013, R, 130 min. Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub, Bar Paly.

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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Michael Bay
Five Things Baymageddon Taught Me
Five Things Baymageddon Taught Me
No pain, some gain from last weekend's Michael Bay marathon

Richard Whittaker, April 28, 2013

In Praise of Michael Bay
In Praise of Michael Bay
Alamo Drafthouse brings 'Pain & Gain' to Baymaggedon on Sunday

Richard Whittaker, April 19, 2013

More Michael Bay Films
Is it good? No. Is it Michael Bay at his most explodey? Yes.

Sarah Jane, April 8, 2022

6 Underground
Michael Bay proves again that he's no James Cameron

Matthew Monagle, Dec. 13, 2019

More by Louis Black
From the Archives: Organizing Outside the System – Deborah Shaffer and <i>The Wobblies</i>
From the Archives: Organizing Outside the System – Deborah Shaffer and The Wobblies
Our 1981 interview with the filmmaker behind the classic doc

May 3, 2022

Page Two: Row My Boat Ashore
Page Two: Row My Boat Ashore
Louis Black bids farewell in his final "Page Two" column

Sept. 8, 2017


Pain & Gain, Michael Bay, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub, Bar Paly

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle