(older movie reviews with a new coat of paint)
“God gave me many gifts and one of them was the ability to knock somebody the fuck out!”-Paul Doyle(Dwayne Johnson)
Michael Bay takes wild comedy to a whole new level and unleashes the outrageously vast talents of Wahlberg and Johnson in his “small” movie about bodybuilders seeking the rich and famous life in Miami in the 1990’s. People forget that Bay is capable of bigger and better things than staging a robot war around Shia Laboeuf. Here, he makes a movie that makes The Hangover seem like Little House on the Prairie. Wahlberg is Daniel Lugo, a muscle head who wants to live life on the other side of the fence, where the dollar bills grow like grass on the lawn in front of mansions. To do that, he schemes to rip off Victor Kershaw(Tony Shalhoub), a rich prick who cares little about fitness yet thinks he owns the world. Joining Lugo are Paul Doyle(Johnson in full throttle hilarity mode) and Adrian Doorbal(the always reliable Anthony Mackie).
Kidnapping, extortion, and murder join the party and things go very very bad. Bay doesn’t forget to remind us in a scene involving a cokehead barbecuing body parts that this is a “true story”. That only adds to the enjoyment and takes the entire film to another level. Pain and Gain’s plot carries the same energy of a cocaine addict. Highs, lows, craziness, over the top events, unpredictable actions and a paranoid meth addict ability to stun the audience.
The quiet jewel of the film comes from the separate narrations from each of the characters, including Ed Harris’ retired detective taking Kershaw’s case. Lugo is your typical dumbbell looking for bigger and better things. Johnson’s Doyle is the real crown jewel of the plot, a born again Jesus freak who fights the urge to bash skulls, down massive amounts of drugs and alcohol and “can’t kill”. This is The Rock you have never seen before. Using all of his physical gifts and adding a spicy mixture of crazy to the concoction. A cathedral of muscle set on a pedestal by a well written role that Johnson takes to the limits and back. Wahlberg can truly do any genre of film and proves it here, planting a vulnerability inside the ferociously ambitious Lugo that can’t be taught. Mackie, Wilson, and Shalhoub all acquit themselves just fine yet don’t shine like the top dogs.
Bay uses all the Tony Scott like shaky camera work and wild editing and here it works like a charm. If there was ever a project that felt so right for the legendarily explosive director, Pain and Gain is it. It is wild and crazy but true, which makes it all the more compelling. Describing this movie isn’t easy because its wild and serious at the same time. There’s a moral hidden in here somewhere but thinking is one thing you don’t have to do here. Just sit down, relax and let the dumb knuckleheads on screen do all the thinking for you. Enjoy this film. It’s worth the trip.