Pain & Gain
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 11th August 2013
Whoa, whoa, whoa! I know I’ve been singing the praises of Dwayne Johnson lately, and I usually give Mark Wahlberg a pretty long leash, but they both need to stop and take a deep breath before picking up another script.
Michael “Explosions” Bay is to blame for directing this outrageous piece of utter drivel, shot like an over-produced music video and written like a 12-year old boy’s underdeveloped fantasy.
Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a “fitness evangelist” whose idea of the American dream is steal it off somebody who’s already made it. He teams up with a daft Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau) and an even stupider The Rock, and the trio of buffoons embark on what was probably pitched as a comedy of errors, but plays out like someone held a gun to Bay’s head and said “Make ’em laugh”.
Far from being funny, the film is laughably awful – as grotesque in its physical cruelty (tortured victims are then graphically run over; bodies are hacked and limbs burned) as it is in its misogyny (it’s all boobs and “bitches”), its “ironic” racism, tired mockery of Christianity and even its passing disrespect of dwarves. About the only person who gets through unscathed is Australian comedienne Rebel Wilson. Otherwise most characters are repulsive, failing to amuse as they rattle off whip-fast lines that ought to get a giggle except they’re missed as the action jump-cuts from the nonsensical to the tedious.
OK, so the film is beautifully photographed and… well, that’s it.
But tonally, the film is a mess. Like those children’s flip-books where you composite a body from mismatched parts, Pain & Gain looks stunning, sounds crass and thinks it’s a comedy without even scraping the Tarantinian heights required to successfully mingle wit with violence. Bay wastes his otherwise talented cast (even Ed Harris is in there) in a film that rates even lower than Battleship. While that film was lame, Pain & Gain is actually objectionable. That it is based on a true story is distasteful enough but its execution is 50 shades of pointless.