Let me begin by saying I mean no disrespect when referring to one Michael Bay as ostensibly infamous. Forever botching potentially well-rounded productions as unnecessary big budget thrills swallow all last semblances of valuable substance, Mr. Bay has often publically defended his style of filmmaking, of which is (needless to say) notoriously hit-or-miss. His most recent Transformers endeavors have decreased ever noticeably in quality from one installment to the next, marred by overwhelming juvenility and plain silliness that detracts from the films’ visual spectacle. Pain & Gain – a welcome conceptual departure for the anti-auteur – read well on paper yet is once again undone at various intervals by Bay’s grating trademarks.
Adapting a string of editorials chronicling the events brought on by a bumbling trio of bodybuilders’ flimsy extortion scheme, Pain & Gain‘s first mistake is glorifying these individuals’ detestable pre-crime lifestyles as much as it does during its post-felonious narrative. Lamebrained as he is naive, Daniel Lugo’s (Mark Wahlberg) vision of the American Dream involves insatiable greed, ignorance and impatience as said crime molds his first and only course of action. Grouping up with long-time pump buddy (Anthony Mackie) and recently sprung, born again ex-con (Dwayne Johnson), their half-baked plan is set in motion as various details blow by quite unceremoniously.
Unsurprisingly, Bay’s uncanny ability to turn things as serious as extortion through torture and eventual double murder into those of questionable levity remains front and center. Immaturity, while rarely negligible thanks only to the uniqueness of the core narrative focus, oozes from Pain & Gain‘s every oil-basted pore while cheap ineffective jabs at humor are thrown at us in droves. Zipping from one plot point to the next as equally inauthentic dialogue – spewed machine gun-style – further mucks up the proceedings considerably, it’s hard to follow exactly what’s going on until these characters physically act out the next phase of two separate schemes. At least it’s all bathed in a typically lush tropical mid-90s Florida color palette; Bay’s frenetic presentation-centric quirks remaining more interesting than wholly engaging.
Characters come and go and return whenever as rhyme and reason take a backseat to an appealingly bizzare if poorly executed true crime effort. Pain & Gain sure looks great more often than not, however choppy, inconsistent editing, awkward pacing and loathsome, ineffective humor trouble the film early on and throughout. Adding increasingly questionable levity to a retelling of a story of this magnitude is as tasteless as can be, the script’s awfully shallow sense of being remaining unrelenting as two hours feels like an eternity even despite Pain & Gain‘s breakneck exposition. Collective dysfunction aside, I really had high(er) hopes for this, Mr. Michael Bay’s latest, although this further proves that his frequently obnoxious sense of style remains front and center regarding his creative process, now and (conceivably) forever.