Miami based body builder and Sun Gym trainer Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is striving to live the American Dream, he wants the money that other people’s wealth affords. To aid his plans he enlists fellow body-builder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict turned Christian body-builder Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson). The “Sun Gym Gang” decides to kidnap a wealthy businessman and blackmail him for his wealth, but when the kidnap goes wrong they are left clinging to the American Dream by the guns and drugs they own.
Pain & Gain is not the type of film we would expect Michael Bay to choose as a directorial project, but he has taken time away from the Transformers films to direct this true life account of body-builders turned killers. In fact this is possibly the best film we have seen Bay direct for quite a while, it’s very stylish in its approach and feels like a music video with its jump cuts and alternate angles of filming.
Bay seems to relish this type of film making as he keeps it the same visuals throughout the film; even during the dark warehouse scenes there is a consistent vibrant hue of light streams through the pane glass to allow the film to feel more open. If only he directed like this more often.
Sadly that’s one of the few things we didn’t have an issue with in Pain & Gain. All the main leads give as good a performance as possible, Johnson is especially the stand-out of all three considering he seems to be moving away from comedy which is a real shame. Wahlberg gives another decent turn in the film and it’s always enjoyable to see him mugging off in a film. The problem is the entire film is let down by a script that doesn’t know what it wants to be. The real story is very brutal and gruesome but the film turns it into a madcap caper of comedy proportions that didn’t sit very well with us.
It’s difficult to laugh at these moments when things go wrong considering how evil it all seems, so laughing at it felt completely wrong. The story lurches from one funny moment to a serious or an evil moment and it doesn’t work. They should have stuck with one way to tell the film (comedy or serious) and left it at that. Instead we have to sit through wince inducing moments that shouldn’t be played as a Carry On film, but that’s how the film has been made and it doesn’t sit right.
Michael Bay has taken a very brutal story and tried to make an interesting and comedic film, but it all feels out of place with a script that is aiming for jokes per minute rather than showing the brutality that went on. A film that feels as misguided as the story it is telling.