Dave White
Pain & Gain Review

Dave's Rating:


Actually, just pain.

Great idea: take the crime-minded girls from Spring Breakers and put cameras in their hands. Tell them to make a movie about themselves. They're half-listening so they half-comply. They're also drunk so they think maybe you said something about including space robots or bodybuilders or something like that. They're into the stuff about murdering people so that's easily accomplished. And this is what they will come up with: a "comedy" based on actual, real-life horror, one that condescends to its characters and the audience, a movie about stupidity that is itself rock-stupid.

Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson star as three Miami meatheads with a get-rich-quick scheme and no real moral convictions about what it will take to make that dream come true. They target a shady rich guy (Tony Shalhoub, lacking awesome muscles, mean to people, therefore has to die) and torture him for a month until he signs over all his assets. Then they dismember some other people for their money when that cash runs low. Insert the film's one consistently funny running joke about what it takes to notarize a document and sprinkle lightly with the trailer's half-dozen or so idiot-funny line readings (mostly delivered by Johnson, whose talent for understatement and projecting naive innocence is worth praising) and that's the film. By Michael Bay. Who should remember that space robots are really more his thing.

It's clear from the finished product that Bay regards this anti-human, true-crime reenactment to be a satire about greed. It's not. It's a cold-brained celebration of cruelty masquerading as a morality tale about people who aren't happy with their garbage-y station in life. It thinks satire means pointing and laughing at poverty, teenage fast food employees and morbidly obese people with impacted bowels (not for long! haw-haw!). Worse, its glib, grotesque translation of documented (and, yes, admittedly insane) events repeatedly affirms itself as a "true story," casting the fictional approximations of the real-life victims as somehow deserving their fate in an effort to create sympathy for its three bumbling anti-heroes. In other words it's an insult to true stories.

We don't have to worry too much about the future of Bay's involvement with real stories and human actors, though. The next Transformers movie is coming soon enough. So is another Bad Boys installment. That's what he's good at: epic crashing nonsense and guns and talking cars. It's unfair to expect him to hone an entirely different skill set and keep trying to be Steven Soderbergh or the Coen brothers. It's also unfair to expect us to watch the results. Ever again.


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