Pain & Gain movie poster
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Pain & Gain movie poster

Pain & Gain Movie Review

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Michael Bay returns to his roots, sort of, with Pain & Gain, a low budget crime comedy-thriller starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie and Tony Shalhoub. Please note that "low budget" for Michael Bay means $25 million.

Pain & Gain is based on a true story that involved several Miami body builders who, in their effort to steal money from people, proceeded to kill said people and cut them into tiny little pieces and barbeque away their fingerprints. Because that's the only tried and true way to steal money.

Naturally, Bay and his screenwriters decided that this macabre story was the perfect vehicle for a comedy, and... it just doesn't work. There are two types of dark comedies: dark comedies that are funny and twisted, and dark comedies that are not funny. Pain & Gain falls into the latter category. Though it has sparks of humor throughout, the movie, which runs a painful 130 minutes (it is a Michael Bay movie, after all), struggles to find the right tone.

Wahlberg, Johnson and the rest of the cast appear to have had fun making this movie, because they basically get to act stupid and do a lot of messed up things. Bay appears to have had fun making the movie, too, even though it almost entirely explosion free. Almost. It's just unfortunate that the fun the cast and crew had doesn't translate to the audience.

The story is pretty ludicrous (so ludicrous that at one point Bay actually reminds the audience that "yes, this is really based on a true story") and at times the absurdity pays off. But overall Pain & Gain is inconsistent; as things progress, it becomes harder and harder to laugh at the film's events, even though Bay attempts to maintain a comedic tone. The characters (arguably the protagonists) are awful human beings and ultimately have little redeeming value.

I give Michael Bay kudos for trying to do something different, but like with so many of his movies, one weakness remains: an unwillingness to edit and tighten the story. Pain & Gain should have been half an hour shorter, and then - maybe - it would have worked. As is, it is a long, sometimes tedious comedy that doesn't evoke enough laughs to warrant the price of admission.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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