With big franchises like Bad Boys and Transformers to his name Michael Bay seems to be an odd choice for such a wacky story like Pain & Gain. After all this ‘it-is so-strange-it-has to-be-true’ tale is nothing like the blockbusters he is use to.
Based on a true story of three body-builders gone wrong Pain & Gain has everything that made the 90s great, or bad depending on which way you look at it: strippers, sports cars, drugs, bright colours and lots, and lots of money.
In 1994 Danny Luco (Mark Wahlberg) decides that his life as a pumped up personal trainer is not enough, and definitely not the American way of life. When a new client joins the Miami Sun Gym and has everything he wants, Luco decides to kidnap and extort him.
But every hero, even an anti one, needs a sidekick or two so Luco gets his colleague Adrian (Anthony Mackie) and ex-con turned Christian Paul (Dwayne Johnson) to join him in his mad plan.
Since they all have more muscle than brains of course the whole endeavour goes south and when self-made sandwich millionaire Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) fights back and hires private investigator Ed DuBois (Ed Harris) the mission is doomed.
Pain & Gain has all the ingredients of a good story and with a series of Miami New Times articles to back up the unbelievable plot it’s hard to understand where it all went wrong. But somehow it does! And since Wahlberg , Johnson and Mackie do a good job in portraying the inept kidnappers it is mainly down to Bay and his direction that the film doesn’t work.
While some scenes are strong and visually interesting, others dwell too long on the unimportant. The vivid colours and frenzied style of the film add to a ‘drugged-up’ feeling when watching and the wobbly camera really doesn’t help. Also at running over two hours Pain & Gain is just too long.
Pain & Gain is an over-the-top film with no subtleties about it. There are some funny moments but overall it is like an old woman wearing too much makeup: the shades may be pretty and the idea is good but the result is just too gaudy to look at.