Michael Bay is a horrible person. He’s well known for yelling at people on the set for no reason. He’s a huge sexist, and constantly has one dimensional, insulting female characters in his movies – if there are female characters in them at all. His movies have far more style over substance, and he will probably never win an Oscar. At least he has a sense of humor about that, as he proved on The Neighbors:
All that being said; he is one of my favorite directors working today. He started his career directing commercials and music videos, and that super-slick attention-deficit style can still be seen in his work. Everything is far too big, far too loud, and far too colorful. He has developed his own trademark slick-action style, and because of this, he makes the best looking movies. Starting in 1995 with Bad Boys, he’s cornered the market on his own brand of action flick: The Rock (1996), Armageddon (1998), Pearl harbor (2001), Bad Boys 2 (2003), the Island (2005), Transformers (2007), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), and now Pain and Gain. My favorite of these is Armageddon, but not to be overlooked is the Miami-based cop action/comedy Bad Boys. Even Will Smith has acknowledged that his movie career is most likely due to the slow-motion open-shirt running scene.
Pain and Gain is based on the unbelievable true story of Daniel Lugo, Adrian Doorbal, and Paul Doyle – the ‘Sun Gym Gang’. In 1995 these three bodybuilders, robbed and killed several people in Miami (that is putting it mildly). You can check the Wikipedia page for the movie for some of the real-vs.-embellished-for-the-film differences (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_and_Gain), but the fact is that both Lugo and Doorbal are currently on death row.
In this film version, Daniel Lugo is a hard working personal trainer at Sun Gym. He has helped the owner, John Mese; build the gym into a successful business and befriended a co-worker, Adrian Doorbal. Lugo encounters a new client, Victor Kershaw, and decides he wants/deserves the money/lifestyle that Kershaw has. He recruits Doorbal and newly released convict Paul Doyle to help him kidnap Kershaw to force him to sign away everything he owns to the trio. The plan sort-of works, and the trio are fairly happy –until they start running out of money, and look for another score. Meanwhile, they botch killing Kershaw (twice), and he hires a private detective to help track them down. The second job goes even worse than the first one, and eventually – the three are caught.
Despite having the lowest budget of any Michael Bay movie since Bad Boys (Bay, Wahlberg and Johnson all took pay cuts), it still has the glossy, colorful feel of his other action flicks. It is his first rated R movie in quite some time, and it is a hard R (at one point, there is the grilling of hands – seriously). The difference between this and other Bay flicks is that there are almost no likable characters in the movie. The three bodybuilders are portrayed as incredibly self-involved, cruel, brutal, and clueless. It is incredibly difficult to enjoy a movie when you hate every character! That being said, the cast does a good job…
· Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, and bulked up to 212 pounds for the film. He’s in great shape, and does a good job making Lugo almost likeable (almost) for the front half of the movie. If not for Wahlberg’s own inherent charm, it would be impossible to find any redeeming qualities in Lugo.
· Anthony Mackie plays Adrian Doorbal, and he bulked up to 213 pounds for the movie (yes, he and Wahlberg had a little competition going). Mackie portrays Doorbal as a hapless bystander, sucked into this crime spree because he needs money for expensive testosterone treatments, as all the steroids he’s been using have rendered his manhood useless. Mackie a great actor (go watch the Adjustment Bureau again), he doesn’t get to do much in this movie, but what he does is pretty hilarious.
· Dwayne Johnson (I just keep calling him the Rock, like everybody else) bulked back up to almost 300 pounds for this movie and he is frighteningly large. Every Bay movie features at least one slow circling camera shot as a figure stands up. In Pain and Gain, the Rock gets that shot. He plays the slow-witted Doyle well, but it is tough to believe the Rock as a bumbling cocaine addict.
· Rebel Wilson adds a few moments of hilarity as Doorbal’s soon to be wife, Robin Peck. Yes, those are her own nunchucks that she brought to set to use.
· Tony Shalhoub plays Victor Kershaw – and actually does a great job. The character is completely despicable, and Shalhoub plays him with just the right amount of venom. This role was supposed to go to John Tuturro, who has worked with Bay in all the Transformers movies, but he had scheduling conflicts.
· Rob Corddry plays gym owner and notary John Mese. There’s not much for him to do in this movie, but he’s fine with what he’s got – including a hilarious scene in which he’s befuddled by the *69 process.
· Ed Harris plays the retired cop and current private detective Ed DuBois who finally takes Kershaw’s case. He may be the one likeable character in the movie.
· Ken Jeong pops up as Lugo’s self-help money-making guru Johnny Wu.
· Peter Stormare has a cameo as Doorbal’s doctor, probably doing a favor for Bay since they worked together in Armageddon.
All in all – this is a completely insane movie. I’m not sure I liked it – it was well done, well put together, and the story was told well…it’s just that the story is so horrible, it almost left me a bit queasy! There is a very interesting use of voice-over narration: each character gets to narrate their own introduction and select sequences. The best part is the real-life bits worked in over the end credits including photos of the real men, and the receipt for the chainsaw that they took back to Home Depot after it broke down while they were trying to dismember a body. No, I’m not kidding. They returned it and bought another one.
6 out of 10 – hey, it looked good. The colors are amazing, and Bay obviously loves Miami. But seriously, I hated almost every character. But then again, that was the point. Gained points for that Bay trademark slow-motion-circle-up on the Rock – nice. Lost points for the scene of Mackie realizing his ‘stuff’ doesn’t work anymore – eww. Gained points for grilling of the hands, I’m sorry, it did make me laugh out loud. Lost points for everything they attempted to do to Kershaw – yikes.
Bonus Video 1: The Island, that Michael Bay movie you forgot about.
Bonus Video 2: The Rock – the other Michael Bay movie with Ed Harris.
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews: