Pain & Gain
dir Michael Bay
scr Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
prd Michael Bay, Ian Bryce, Donald De Line
with Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Rebel Wilson, Bar Paly, Keili Lefkovitz, Michael Rispoli, Emily Rutherfurd, Ken Jeong
release US 26.Apr.13, UK 30.Aug.13
13/US Paramount 2h09
Pain & Gain
Brawn without brains: Johnson, Mackie and Wahlberg

shalhoub harris corddry
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Pain & Gain Michael Bay returns to action-comedy Bad Boys-style for a true story that's as preposterous as Catch Me If You Can or I Love You Phillip Morris. In the absence of those films' witty subtlety, we laugh simply because the characters are such idiots. And it could be argued that mining such a brutal story for goofy humour is tasteless.

In mid-90s Miami, Daniel (Wahlberg) is a bodybuilding obsessive who trains wealthy clients with his steroid-addicted colleague Adrian (Mackie) at a gym owned by the tetchy John (Corddry). Frustrated that his clients live better than he does, Daniel decides to kidnap one of them (Shalhoub) and steal his fortune. Adrian offers to help, but they need some muscle, so they rope in born-again ex-con Paul (Johnson). Not being the brightest guys on earth, their plan goes hopelessly wrong, drawing the attention of a tenacious private eye (Harris).

Even though people die horrifically, the film goes for broad laughs as these dimwits behave like characters from their favourite movies. And the actors make them eerily likeable for violent thugs. Wahlberg plays Daniel as a guy who pursues what he wants but never thinks about consequences. Mackie makes Adrian a self-doubting charmer who romances his clinic nurse (expert scene-stealer Wilson). And Johnson reveals Paul religious devotion along with his weakness for cocaine and a Russian "actress" (Lefkovitz).

All three are portrayed as nice guys who make a few mistakes, including accidental murders, but the fact remains that these guys brutalised their victims for financial gain and were more than willing to kill them. Meanwhile, Shalhoub's central victim is probably the nastiest character in the film; we never feel remotely sorry for him (and neither do the cops). The other victims (Rispoli and Rutherford) are vulgar and hideous.

Of course, Bay can't help but pepper the story with car stunts, explosions and massive fight sequences, when reality was surely scrappier. This is slickly made entertainment designed to make us laugh at uneducated but likeable muscle-heads, playing the grisly violence for laughs rather than any sense that real people were brutally tortured and killed. OK, yes, it's a lot of fun to watch. But we should feel guilty for enjoying it.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs 12.Jul.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall