'Pain & Gain' review: Like its protagonists, 'Pain' is idiotic but charming
Michael Bay's action-crime comedy 'Pain & Gain' (watch the trailer) is actually pretty boring for much of its running time, however, a strong third act and the charisma of Mark Wahlberg & Dwayne Johnson redeems much of its mistakes.
The comedy-action-crime flick 'Pain & Gain' is notably, and arguably, the first completely character-driven movie Bay has tackled. For this, Bay should receive a little positive acknowledgement, as this character driven flick is among his best work -- that said, the man behind 'Bad Boys II' and 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' has not raised the bar very high for himself. The idiotic trio of main characters continue to make one bone-headed decision that causes their next idiotic blunder.
Bay's decision to make this crime-caper true story into a very silly comedy is an interesting choice. The criminals are unbelievably stupid and the victims are terribly unlikable - but, successfully, to comedic effect. This overall comedic tone is what makes 'Pain & Gain' interesting if only because most action-crime flicks take themselves far too seriously.
That said, however, much of the film's problems come from a meandering plot that relies far too heavily on broad, out-of-place jokes that add nothing to the film's texture except to add some easy laughs. A hospitalized man explosively defecates all over a bathroom. A character must get injections directly into his penis. A main character walks into a warehouse and comments at length about its contents: porn store retail merchandise. A dwarf armed with a bat is grabbed, held just high enough for his legs to kick freely in midair. These jokes, while sorta chuckle-worthy, paper cut the film's pacing to death while adding nothing to it. Cheap laughs are a form of misdirection, as they often distract from meager stories without strong plot points.
The first two acts would be entirely lost without Mark Wahlberg and 'The Rock.' Their characters are lovable and charming, even as they commit increasingly despicable crimes. Their charisma carries the weight of 'Pain & Gain' and allows their viewers to root for their characters, despite the sheer number of poor decisions they make. Wahlberg is good as the moronic, but principled, ringleader and Johnson shows off his surprisingly sharp comedic timing.
'Pain & Gain' is harmless fun, but its storytelling has room for much improvement.
Final verdict: Wait for this one to hit cable.