Based on the Miami New Times articles by Pete Collins (who acted as script supervisor for the film), Pain and Gain is the true story of three bodybuilders: America Loving Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), God loving Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) and BBW loving Doorbal (Anthony Mackie). Inspired by a self-help guru (Ken Jeong), Lugo devises a plan to kidnap one of the affluent clients at his gym and, with the help of Doyle and Doorbal, extort all the money he possibly can do. What already starts off as a hare-brained scheme, kicks off a chain of events that leads to murder.
Before its release, Pain and Gain had already gained notoriety from the families of the victims portrayed. The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Life and Death of Peter Sellers and Captain America), treats the three antagonists as absolute knuckleheads. Wahlberg’s tall poppy syndrome is undercut by his constant malapropisms. Johnson walks around like Mongo from Blazing Saddles in a Jesus Saves t-shirt, whilst Mackie shares a fruity flirtation with Rebel Wilson. It’s akin to watching The Three Stooges with chainsaws. Which is shaky ground to be hanging their crimes on in the first place. The fact the humour flips between making us laugh AT them and then WITH them highlights the schizophrenic nature of this film as it is. It’s definitely a weak script.
A script that isn’t helped by the cast’s delivery. Whilst Johnson is quite fun as the teetotal ex-con heading on a downward spiral, Wahlberg sleepwalks throughout and even Ed Harris seems to be phoning it in. What did we also discover? Allowing Rebel Wilson to adlib in a movie, funny. Allowing Rebel Wilson to adlib in a film that’s based on a true story, tacky.
Then, when all hope is lost, everyone’s favourite franchise destroyer steps up to the plate…
Criticising Michael Bay has become something of a sport now. And with each new entry in his canon, the sport has gone from a long distance triathlon to shooting fish in a barrel with a bazooka. Sometimes, in the quieter moments, it can seem that we’re all just being a bit too hard on the Bayster. He’s just a man. A mortal man, trying to entertain us right!? What’s wrong with that? And then he goes and releases a film like Pain and Gain.
My Bay, My Bay, what have ye done?
For a film about bodybuilding, it’s amazing how podgy this film is. Despite all Bay’s favourite tricks – breasts, homophobia, explosions, loud music – he can’t disguise how much he needs someone to say, ‘Mikey! Enough!’ There’s almost something commendable about making an hour and 20 minutes – which covers character introductions and their first kidnapping – drag like the 100 year war. The same way you might begrudgingly acknowledge someone’s feat in killing over 50 people in an hour. ‘Wow! It’s a terrible tragedy, but they must have been good at cardio.’ But then to have to acknowledge that there’s still another 50 minutes to go just feels inhuman. Any good will the film tried to create has been well and truly crushed underfoot by Bay. When he cherry picks a directorial choice from Bad Boys II, we know that the film has lost us forever.
Pain and Gain could, potentially, with the right director have been a black satire of the brutal pursuit of the American dream. Admittedly, with the script issues, it still wouldn’t have been very good. However, with Bay, the whole thing is offensive from beginning to end. It’s like listening to Scooter whilst Bay himself gives you a lap dance dressed as the Hulk. His green body paint testicles slapping you in the face. In fact, that’s the best summary we can give it.
Pain and Gain; a neon painted bollock of a movie.