Pain & Gain (2013)

Pain & Gain film poster.jpg
No Pain, No Gain

A trio of bodybuilders in Florida get caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong

Michael Bay is a director disliked by critics and film watchers alike, a man mainly criticized for his overuse of special effects, explosions and perverted shots of skimpily dressed women, most notably in the Transformers franchise. So hearing that he was going to make a film with a much smaller budget than his usual fare was an interesting prospect. While the women are still dressed skimpily, and the explosions have been limited to one, the result is a positive one for a director as lauded as Bay.

Mark Wahlberg shows his strengths as an actor, playing Danny Lugo, a bodybuilder who's tired of where he is in his life and wants to be rich and famous, so decides to kidnap rich crook Victor Krenshaw (Tony Shalhoub) in order to take his assets. Wahlberg does a great job as the dumb fitness lover, but excels in his slow descent from simply lusting after the finer things, into becoming a real psychopath.

Anthony Mackie proves what an underrated actor he is, delivering a fine performance, while Rebel Wilson does a good job as his spouse. But it's The Rock Dwayne Johnson who steals the show, playing Paul Doyle, a cocaine-addicted convict who's turned to religion, bringing a lot of charisma to the role. The trio are treated like proper characters, giving us an understanding for why each of them are partaking in these illegal activities, and then gives us the opportunity to laugh at how dumb they ultimately are.

"Scrubs cosplayers, unite!"
While the humor is appreciated to prevent this film from becoming a wholly grim experience, it can sometimes jar, leading to moments that should be serious ending up being played for laughs. Especially considering how we're laughing at characters who are (mostly) portrayed after real life people who have committed the crimes depicted onscreen.

The script manages to be smarter than you'd expect, even containing a satirical edge, but also bringing along a number of clunky lines throughout.

This is easily Michael Bay's best film in years, and goes to show how much better a director he is when directing smaller pictures. Well, a budget of $25 million is small, compared to the multi-million dollar pictures he's done.