Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Pain & Gain


One of the most interesting dumb criminal stories comes to the big screen starring Mark Walberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie as the notoriously stupid criminals.  And it ALMOST works.  This is a bit of a mess, but there is a good film in there.  It just needed a director who could bring it out.

There’s a lot of tongue-and-cheek moments and over-the-top sentimentalism which does manage to hit the mark at points, and at other times you can see how well it would work if it hit the mark.For example, Mark Walberg’s character is completely wrapped up in infomercial platitudes like “be a do-er” and says so with such sincerity its actually quite funny.  However, in the hands of a director who better understands how to play off witty humour, this could have been a bigger strength for this film.

And then there’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s performance which is far and away the most watchable aspect of this movie.  He’s downright hilarious as a deluded born-again Christian who is also a cokehead and a criminal.   He really knocks this one out of the park.

The real problem with this movie is Michael Bay.  Okay, I know that bashing Michael Bay has become a tired troupe among movie fandom circles.  I get that.  But I just couldn’t help watching and thinking how much  better this would have been under someone else’s control.  And it may just be that personally, his style clashes with my tastes.  But for one thing, I really dislike his visual aesthetic.  That grainy, desaturated look that all his films have just doesn’t do it for me.I also don’t like the flow to the dialogue most of the time.  Its too jerky and awkward.

But most of all for a movie like Pain & Gain, I hate the way he manages humour.  In many cases, the jokes would have been better if handled more deftly, as would the overarching themes of extreme patriotism.  I also really dislike his use of race-based “humour” (see the Rebel Wilson/ Anthony Mackie stuff).  I really feel like the absurdity and comedy was a very important aspect of this movie, and with Bay at the helm it just wasn’t used to its full potential.



2 Responses to “Pain & Gain”

  1. Nice review Ian. Granted, there are jokes involving penises that fall flat because they have Bay written all over them, but the movie made me laugh more than I expected.

  2. It’s incredible that it’s based on a true story! My friend at work was just talking about this the other day. I would give this a rent out of sheer curiosity.

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