Pain and Gain
Directed by Michael Bay

Starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson

3 out of 5 Arnolds
After an uncharacteristic stretch with sci-fi, Michael Bay puts down the genre but holds on to his can of spray-on for Pain and Gain, a liberal interpretation of real life events that took place in Dade County, Florida during the 90s.
The true life story was the subject of a three-parter by journalist Pete Collins. It describes a much larger operation by the “Sun Gym gang,” a group of hard body extortionist whose failed attempt at murder ultimately landed them in prison. As expected, despite the films amusing insistence, the truth behind Pain and Gain wasn’t good enough for director Michael Bay.

In the film, the criminals are reimagined as a goofy yet loveable trio consisting of Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, and Dwayne Johnson. The bumbling meatheads (Bay included) somehow spin this account of homicidal narcissism into a somewhat cautionary tale about pursuing the American dream. It’s in those few rare moments of mindless jingoism that the film actually rings true on many levels — a thematic decision that is given legs thanks to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The First Avenger).

That’s not to say that the film is without faults. Bay’s inability to be subtle hurts the movie’s second act. That point is best summed up by an armored car robbery at the midway point that serves no purpose other than to make the Transformersdirector comfortable with his surroundings.

Action A Go Go or Action A No No? ACTION A GO GO!

Like him, hate him, or love him, but director Michael Bay is an auteur (yes, I said it). His quick cuts, his explosive slo-mos, his ADHD protagonists (not to mention their breathless delivery), and his blind patriotism are as deliberate as they are impulsive. It’s never been made clearer than with Pain and Gain, a movie that could be considered his thesis on the USA.

Is it clunky? Yes. Is it obnoxious? Sometimes. Is it entertaining? Every second of it.

Oh. And one more thing:

Plenty of critics took issue with the movie’s heroification of true life criminals. If you want to play that game then films like Goodfellas should be offered up as well…and nobody is going to do that. The truth is, like any good crime film, the criminals of this movie wear their delusion on their sleeves. What better fantasy world to conceal your condemnable behavior than a Michael Bay movie?