Pain and Gain Review
In the world of film criticism, director Michael Bay has received lots of scrutiny over the years. He is labeled as the style over substance guy. He likes his big explosions, useless scenes, occasional slo-mo and his women in bikini's. I agree the formula is annoying, and I understand some of the vile that gets thrown his way. I'm not a huge fan of "Pearl Harbor" "Bad Boys II," "The Island," and some of his other films. However when his style matches a particular idea, he can actually make something very special.
Michael Bay's new film, "Pain and Gain" is a particular idea that matches Bay's style. It's got a few big explosions, quite a few useless scenes, occasional slo-mo and there are some women in bikini's. Overall, the film is pretty special. It's witty, it's fun and it's very entertaining. I feel after Bay finished his first three Transformers films, floodgates in his heart opened up and he found something that he could work well with. I think there are still some execution things that don't quite work. However, for the first time in a very long time, I had huge smile on my face from a Michael Bay movie. I was even chuckling to myself too.
The film is based off an odd true story which came to be known as the Sun Gym gang murders. Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a man who is a self-proscribed "doer" and he is on a mission for the American Dream. That dream involves stealing all the money and assets from Victor Kershaw (played with wondrous vile by Tony Shalhoub.) Kershaw is rich, but he's dirt-bag of an individual and Lugo doesn't think he deserves his fortune. Lugo recruits two men to help in his crusade. In typical Michael Bay fashion, Lugo's friends have crazy personalities of their own. Anthony Mackie plays Adrian Doorbal, who has taken so many steroids that he no longer gains an erection. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays Paul Doyle, a ex-convict who found religion while in prison. However, he lost it after getting into a fight with his priest.
The sheer silliness of the premise is typical Michael Bay. But this is so far up his alley that Bay really shines with the material. He gets every laugh and gag, he nails every crazy action scene and relishes in the luney trip this movie offers, it is all so crazily heartfelt. The actors are great too. Mark Walhberg has proven that "Ted" in 2012 wasn't some fluke. He can be very funny in a comedic film and is very good here. Anthony Mackie is an actor I've been hoping would explode onto the scene, and I think he is getting there. He is great as Doorbal. The Rock is charismatic machine and I am so glad that he has made another plunge into action, its where he truly belongs.
The rest of the cast is great. Ed Harris plays a private detective who investigates the kidnapping of Kershaw, and Rebel Wilson plays a nurse who tries to help Doorbal with his impotency, both actors are wonderful with their material.
I feel Bay improves all the aspects of his talent with this movie, but the problem is that he does not improve everything his non-fans finds annoying. This is a two hour movie which could have easily been a fun hour thirty, or hour forty-five minute movie. I feel like Bay needs to find better editors for his films, because the payoff would be huge. The extra gags and overblown scenes can be silly in a fun way sometimes. But by the middle of the film, this story just feels overlong.
If Bay keeps choosing projects like "Pain and Gain" to direct, I feel the director could hit a golden age of his career. I just hope he can eventually learn to edit a scene properly or just stop writing in so many unneeded scenes into his movies. They distract from the overall core of the film and I feel like that shouldn't be happening. At the same time, this was joy to sit through. Lots of fun going on, lots of laughs, lots of action and lots of pretty people to look at. I hope and pray that "Transformers 4" can hit the ground running like "Pain and Gain" did. I hope Bay can take "Pain and Gain" as a huge plus and learning experience. I hope he can model his future projects to fit the model of "Pain and Gain." The best artists have highs and lows. I hope that Bay is starting to climb back up the latter. It is possible he may slump down again, but I have high hopes. For right now, let's say "job well done."
FINAL GRADE: A-