DUMB & DUMBER
Pain & Gain
Review by Paul Preston
Here’s the most frustrating phrase in Hollywood – “Directed by Michael Bay”. His movies annoy the hell out of me, yet I haven’t missed one in a decade, for some reason. FRUSTRATING!
“Pain & Gain” represents the first Bay feature to be denied a summer release in at least FIFTEEN years…..that actually peaked my interest. Perhaps Bay has made a smaller film that won’t have the mass appeal of his past films, which might be a good thing!
In the end, Bay has a made a film struggling with the fact that it’s a Michael Bay film. It’s fun to watch the best parts peak through Bay’s usual main ingredient – excess. It’s one of those films that’s better when it’s having fun than when it’s trying to be funny.
Mark Wahlberg plays Danny Lugo, a bodybuilder with big dreams. After examining his surroundings in Miami and attending a motivational workshop, he realizes what must be done to advance his station in life, and he sets out to involve friends in and plan a Robin Hood-esque crime scheme that will that will deliver him The American Dream. Standing in his way? Lugo is as dumb as a rock.
Lugo is very reminiscent of Wahlberg’s classic portrayal of Dirk Diggler, but more harmful and with less innocence. But as wayward as this plot goes and as often as some of the humor doesn’t connect, Bay and his cast NAIL just how absolutely moronic these bodybuilders must be (THESE bodybuilders, not all bodybuilders who read this…and know where I hang out). But there’s gotta be some give and take, right? I mean, what they have in muscle, they lack in brains? And these guys are HUGE.
Let me make sure this comes out right. Wahlberg is perfectly cast here, he brings his manic energy and endless enthusiasm to a guy with no shot to pull off his dream of ultimate happiness. Anthony Mackie provides the solid support expected from him by now.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, looking more like a boulder here, is good as a weightlifter struggling to stay sober and on the righteous path, but failing frequently. But don’t you want The Rock to be great? I do. He’s so GREAT in the WWE, in absolute command of 30,000 people every time he grabs the mic. I want him to be GREAT in a movie, and I don’t think it’s happened yet. “Fast Five” came close. And some people are writing him off as coming from the mold of Schwarzenegger, so we shouldn’t expect greatness. But let me remind you Arnold was GREAT in “Terminator 2”, “Twins” and “True Lies”.
The story goes bananas with murder, drugs, theft, decapitation, kidnapping and extortion to the point where you have to remind yourself (or you don’t) that it’s based on a true story. A movie like “Boogie Nights” put Wahlberg’s earnest lead in a sprawling epic of interesting characters and palpable relationships. Here Wahlberg delivers, but he’s surrounded by material much more base and gleeful about its excess. Quite often, with the “True Romance”-y score, on-screen graphics and frenzied editing, Michael Bay fashions himself quite the Tony Scott movie.
I had more fun at this movie than maybe any other Michael Bay movie I’ve ever seen. All the more reason to get annoyed when moments of humanity or cinematic flair that Tarantino might’ve brought to this story are passed over. But Bay has a great sense of pace, and his films just LOOK gorgeous, and Miami is certainly one of his favorite places to film.
Nobody can pull off a heist and be cool about it like Danny Ocean. And there’s entertainment to be had watching Danny Lugo be that nobody.
Directed by: Michael Bay
Release Date: April 26, 2012
Run Time: 129 Minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures