Pain & Gain
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie
Directed by Michael Bay (Transformers)
Rated R for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use
Apparently based on a true story, Pain & Gain tells the story of three moronic but ambitious body builders in Florida who jump head first into a kidnapping and extortion scheme that goes terribly wrong. Unlike my slam on the recent home entertainment release of Gangster Squad, this story is apparently mostly true. I’m sure liberties were taken and blanks were filled in with a lot of comedy, but these events did actually take place. That three incredibly buff guys with not one brain between them could get as far as they did is staggering.
Billed as a low budget film by tentpole director Michael Bay (the movie is estimated to have only cost $25 million to make), Pain & Gain still looks like a bloated budget Hollywood picture. The supporting cast, including Ed Harris, Rebel Wilson, Tony Shalhoub and Rob Corddry, turn in solid and believable performances, in spite of the subject matter. I am especially impressed though with Wahlberg and Johnson who pretend to be the way many on the outside believe them to be in real life. This is a brave feat and they dig into their roles with everything they’ve got.
What works best here is the extreme amount of comedy, even in the face of disgusting human behavior. For instance, after a grisly crime, they stop to pump biceps, as if drawing power and emotional strength from the iron. It’s as funny as anything I’ve seen this year, although I’ll admit that not everyone in the theater was laughing as hard as me.
The biggest problem with the film is that it is far too long at 130 minutes. I expect that length from a big action film or an even a short epic, but for a crime comedy it is far too excessive and it shows. If this film were directed by almost any director other than Bay, I can guarantee the movie would be easily missing 20-30 minutes.
I also found there to be some little, almost unnoticeable inaccuracies. I remember an old story about how David Lee Roth used to ask for no brown M&Ms in his technical guide, not to be a diva but to make sure the specs were followed precisely for safety reasons. I feel the same way here. If there are little tiny things wrong factually, how much liberty was taken by the filmmakers in the making of their “true story.” Since its not a well-known tale then perhaps I’ll never know. But I still have my doubts on how much is fact and how much is fiction. B