Saturday, August 24, 2013


You can listen to a podcast review of this movie here, or subscribe to Bina007 Movie Reviews in iTunes.

It feels like we're in the midst of a run of movies about people whose sense of reality and entitlement is so out of whack that they they think they have the right to the fruits of the American Dream without, you know, actually working for it - people so ingrained with popular culture that their only frame of reference are movie heists and getaways.  In this latest instalment  we get Marky Mark and The Rock in PAIN & GAIN - a movie based on the true story of three bodybuilders who decided to kidnap, torture and extort one rich clients at their local gym. The selling point of the flick is meant to be the dark comedy of seeing these movie-obsessed idiots mess up again and again, and succeed - when they succeed - almost by accident.

Man, this movie started off so well - full of gonzo energy and whacky humour.  I loved Mark Wahlberg's intensity and his character Daniel Lugo's earnest stupidity.  And I thought this was arguably Dwayne Johnson's finest performance as the ex-con turned evangelical Christian turned reluctant kidnapper, Paul Doyle. I even liked the usually rather anonymous Anthony Mackie as their sidekick, Adrian Doorball, whose steroid abuse had led to impotence, but also his marriage to a naive nurse played by a more muted Rebel Wilson.  These guys had real camaraderie and were so incompetent I was willing them to succeed.  And of course, in real life as in the movie, they were counting on the straight up douchey-ness of their victim (Tony Shalhoub) to make sure the police wouldn't get involved.

But the movie goes downhill in its second halve.  As the body count ticks up our whacky kidnappers become less likeable and - a real problem for this film - the screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely - just can't sustain the hyper-ludicrous gonzo humour that this movie promised in its opening act.  Barring a truly surreal and memorable scene of the Rock barbecuing body parts while trying to chat up the neighbours, the second half was a real police procedural drag, that even Ed Harris' super-stylish private investigator couldn't save.  We needed to see more of the Rock - his transformation from evangelist to coke-head was superb - his best performance on record - and less of the procedural.  In general, this movie needed to get way more surreal - way more Nic Cage crazy.

So, a tale of two halves, but for all that, PAIN & GAIN is without doubt Michael Bay's best film since BAD BOYS. (Admittedly the benchmark isn't high.)  I far prefer Bay in his lower budget (I won't insult indie film-makers by saying low budget) movies, where he's more focussed on buddy-comedy and character than high-octane humourless misogynistic fare.  You can tell he's having fun with this flick. And kudos also to his cinematographer Ben Seresin (WORLD WAR Z) who uses a mix of DV and celluloid to create an amped-up hyper-colourful 1990s Miami, that takes us from the glossy mansions to derelict warehouses and manages to capture the coked-up craziness of a kidnap gone bad.  There's a particular sequence in a suburban home where his fluid style and use of body cameras is absolutely breathtaking. 

PAIN & GAIN has a running time of 129 minutes and is rated R in the USA and 15 in the UK.

PAIN & GAIN was released earlier this year in the USA, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Russia, USA, Canada, Croatia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Romania, Slovenia, Georgia, Mexico, Bosnia, Serbia, Iceland, Lithuania, Norway, Macedonia, Turkey and Italy. It opened earlier this month in Hungary, Singapore, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Austria, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and Switzerland, Portugal, Thailand, Brazil and South Africa.  The movie opens on August 30th in Ireland, Poland, Spain and the UK; on September 5th in Denmark; on September 6th in Colombia, Panama and Taiwan; on September 11th in France; on September 12th in Chile and Peru; on September 13th in Cyprus and Sweden; and on September 19th in Argentina.

1 comment:

  1. Good review. It's not Bay's worst movie, but it's by no means worth seeing if you're expecting something like The Rock. Not the wrestler, the movie.