Movie Review of Pain and Gain

Movie review of Pain and Gain

THE SETUP: It’s the 90s! Spandex, fitness freaks, and the ME decade.  And what’s the best way to get to the top without even trying? Kidnap a rich dude, make him give you all his money, convince him not to press charges, drop him off somewhere and ride off into the steroid sunset. Unfortunately, this story really happened and real life is usually a lot messier and lot less lucky.

THE THOUGHTS: Michael Bay has been blasting out mega-budget, spectacle extravaganzas for about two decades now, so he decided to take a step back and do a quieter movie. A $26 million (not including marketing) movie…of course with helicopters, an explosion and some pretty obvious signature Bay camera moves (still loving those 360 degree camera pans, Mike?). I recently asked if Michael Bay makes good movies? What we got here is definitely a more gritty film than we’ve seen from the director in years, and though not his best work, still pretty enjoyable.

YAYS: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I need to see this guy in more movies. Now that he’s out of his Disney contract (Tooth Fairy, Witch Mountain, etc.), he’s starting to get a lot more adult in his choices. Most have been OK, but Johnson really stands out as the star of Pain & Gain. We know he can do the physical stuff but he’s also great at the comedy and ACTUAL acting.

Kinetic story. From beginning to end, this movie didn’t stop moving. Whether it was the characters, the action or story, the film had a dynamic pace. I think it would have benefited from a editorial cut of about 20 minutes to take advantage of that energy but nothing felt out of place or too “extra”. The signature Michael Bay camera work that’s usually reserved for big movies really worked on this smaller scale.

NAYS: I’m perfectly fine with a movie being a few things: comedy, drama, action. Life is like that and movies shouldn’t feel compelled to stick to a perceived restrictive genre. Having said that, the dopey, fun moments with the main characters are great until it gets really serious for the big ending. There’s no obvious shift in tone or anything, but it is a bit of a shock to the audience, forcing us to realize that these aren’t good people at all that we’re suppose to be, in some way, rooting for. Perhaps a bit less of the obvious comedy would have helped.

Besides The Rock, the only other character that seemed at all interesting was Tony Shalhoub as the kidnappee. Sure he’s a miserable person but he’s an entertaining miserable person. Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie seemed far too one-dimensional. Even if that’s what their true characters were like, it doesn’t make for an engaging experience.

Movie Review of PAIN and GAIN Rating:

3 stars  good movie, take a friend. A fun snapshot of the 90s, Darwinism and a Michael Bay experiment on whether he can still make a low budget movie. It’s funnier than you would think, with a great performance from The Rock and story that you can’t believe is true. Worth a watch.

Random Recommendations

8 Mile (2002) – I’m surprised how many people still haven’t seen this movie. Maybe it’s because it stars Eminem. Maybe the story of a poor kid trying to break out of his environment through rap music was uninteresting. I’d ask you to rethink those concerns. Why: Great performance from Slim Shady, fantastic music and a tale that feels more real than clichéd. And that’s Pain & Gain’s Anthony Mackie as Papa Doc.

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