It's no secret that Michael Bay is one of the most criticized directors of all time. Hidden among his plethora of terrible movies lies a rare few where explosions, and over the top grandeur, doesn't ruin his the movie he's directing. Alas though the dark comedic story that was just released, in Pain & Gain, does not fit into this category. With a surprisingly decent performance by both leads, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, and a controversial adaptation to a real life story, this had all the makings to be a surprise. Instead we have a movie that starts of well and then trails off so badly, it left me in pain by the time the credits rolled. Pain & Gain is one of Micheal Bay's least worst films to come out lately.
Pain & Gain is set in 1995 and follows the story of Sun Gym personal trainer Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) and his two friends Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson). The three men are big bodybuilders. Daniel Lugo is sick of being normal, and after going to a motivational seminar, led by Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong), he decides to become a "doer". One of the people Daniel trains is a rich, self made business man, by the name of Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub). He is constantly flaunting, and sometimes complaining about, his wealth. Daniel gets the idea that he's gonna kidnap Kershaw and make him sign over all his money and assets to the three friends. Adrian agrees due to the fact that all the steroids have wreaked havoc on his body. Paul, recently released from prison up North, is a cocaine addict that has found religion. He decides to come to Miami and needs a place of his own. The three, known as The Sun Gym Gang, eventually kidnap Kershaw and stores him in one of his warehouses. Daniel assumes it'll be full of fitness equipment, but instead is full of sex toys. After putting him through the proverbial ringer, Kershaw signs over everything, but there is a problem. The documents need to be signed with a notary present. Luckily the owner of Sun Gym, John Mese (Rob Corddry), is a notary and Daniel tricks him into authorizing the documents. This sets into motion the best, and eventually worst, moments of The Sun Gym Gang's lives, as they find out they really shouldn't be "doers".
We're going to break this one down in the terms of first half and second half. The first half of this movie is pretty entertaining. It sets up the story and characters well, and is pretty humorous. While the second half becomes too serious of a movie, with not enough good direction to get to point B and too many failed attempts at humor. The one constant though is that the adaptation to a real story is lacking. I don't mind dark comedy, but that only gets you so far. The writing and dialogue for the first hour or so of this movie is good. Mark Wahlberg is a likable lead, that really turns himself into Daniel Lugo. A guy at his core who wants to better his life, in a less than desirable way. Meanwhile, Dwayne Johnson played the coke addled man recently let out of prison, who turned to religion, exceptionally well too. He personifies Paul Doyle, who wants to help his follow man more than himself. Both are smart, but are missing just enough up there to put what they're doing in severe jeopardy. The dialogue is full of meat-heads thinking they're right, messing up simple thoughts or words and somehow hatching a ridiculously hair brained plan that somehow worked. It's full of character development, decent one liners, and dark humor that's very entertaining. I was really into the story and characters, even the humor at points, but then it took a sudden, extremely dark turn. This was about halfway through the movie as well and leads me to all that is bad about this flick. Cause it takes quite a nosedive.
To put it simply, the second half of this turns into quite a boring, thriller-like movie. Which is not what this is in the slightest. The trio still retains their childlike oblivion to everything that they're doing, but the movie somehow shifts into a weird game of cat and mouse with Ed Harris. The trio turns into a group that would murder to cover their tracks, and if they have to their bright idea is to cover it all up. While all this is fine, this isn't a thriller and these guys are written to be masterminds. The comedy becomes very stale and unfunny, while you marvel at how these guys have even gotten to this point. The acting is still fine by the likes of Wahlberg, Johnson and Harris, but the story and dialogue written to go with everyone feels out of place. Speaking of the story it becomes completely formulaic. Kershaw hires a detective to get his money back. In turn they get nowhere until these muscled up morons screw up and then they are caught. It's how all these movies with lacking writing go and this is no different. Also tone of the movie turns quite bad. It goes from this lighthearted-esqe (dark) comedy, to a movie where essentially murderers and thieves try to evade being caught. The problems don't end here as, even in the first half of the movie, there are a ton of scenes that have no business being in there. While no scene was overly long, cutting some of these "fatty" scenes would've shortened this bear of a movie. This is a long two hours, and it feels like a lot of movies these past two years have been hurt by length. They think longer equals better, and with a movie with a lot of substance this is fine. But in a movie lie this it really hurts it.
Know I've read up on how Pain & Gain is based of a true story. Which is actually pretty horrific and that the real life people involved aren't thrilled with this movie. I'm not thrilled with this because it had potential to be good and I watched a movie fall apart. Aside form the first hour and the overall performances by Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Ed Harris, this is a pretty forgettable movie. Good for a watch if you can get through the second half, but not worth your hard earned money when it hits DVD and BluRay.