The Score: "[He] Is Tased, Beaten, Burned & Mashed Up To A Bloody Pulp In 'Pain & Gain'"

Friday, Apr 26, 2013 3:45PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

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  • Pain & Gain
  • Mark Wahlberg, The Rock
  • April 26, 2013
Entertainment Weekly B
Hollywood 3.5 out of 5
New York Post 3.5 out of 5
The Hollywood Gossip 2.5 out of 5
The Screen Rant 2.5 out of 5

If you're looking for a reason to ditch the couch and leftover fast food wrappers for a night full of action and gut-wrenching laughter, look no further than Friday's opening of Pain & Gain.

The glossy violent comedy thriller comes packed with Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg, former professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and actor Anthony Mackie.

The difference between Pain and Gain and every Coen Brothers movie with that premise is that Michael Bay's hapless men aren't timid and pathetic. They're not looking for recompense or justice. They're just greedy meatheads. Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo, a bodybuilder not satisfied with his decent job doing literally the only thing he knows how to do: personal training. When a rich sandwich magnate named Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) who's less of an "asshole," as Lugo describes him, and more of an annoying weirdo, becomes his client, he decides to twist the advice of a hack motivational speaker played by Ken Jeong (The Hangover Part III), and extort him for all he's worth. To help him, Lugo enlists fellow bodybuilders Adrian Doorbal, played by Anthony Mackie, and ex-con Paul Doyle, played by Dwayne Johnson. (The Hollywood Gossip)

Pain & Gain also relies on a few notable co-stars like Ed Harris and Rebel Wilson.

I haven't even gotten to the brilliance of the sets (dismal motels, sun-wrecked pavement, powder blue), or of Rebel Wilson as Adrian's wife, or of Ken Jeong as the motivational speaker. This movie is a knucklehead "Great Gatsby." I laughed my glutes off. (New York Post)

Instead of just having the story delivered by Wahlberg's main character, mega movie director Michael Bay includes multiple voiceovers and narratives.

Initially, their Keystone Kops-on-creatine act is hilarious, and Bay seems liberated by the larky lightness of the film. Don't get me wrong, he's still Michael Bay -- he doesn't waste any opportunity to show a close-up of some bikini-clad babe's thong-cleaved derriere -- but this smart, scaled-down new direction feels fresher than his usual cocktail of fireballs and bombast. The film, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is cleverly told from shifting points of view, so that we get voice-overs from each of the characters recounting what absurd turn of events happened next. Even they can't seem to believe their own stupidity. For the first half of the film, which has a fizzy, kicky, caffeinated energy, this works beautifully. (Entertainment Weekly)

Bay's signature knack for amplifying scenes and injecting colors to his flicks is observed on his latest work.

Bay's style from the retina-annihilating Transformers series carries over to Pain & Gain, where it seeps into the storytelling perfectly. His usual low-angle hero shots now echo the characters' crass egotism, while a palette of blinding colors match the plastic beauty of Miami. A smaller scale forces Bay to push himself further, which leads to exhilarating success -- similar to last year's End of Watch, the director injects kineticism through putting us in the seat of the gang's car, on the nose of a pistol, or right up in Wahlberg's faces as he performs sit ups in the hot sun. Seizing the rated-R opportunity, Bay also depicts the details of the real 1995 kidnapping case in all their grizzly glory. Shalhoub is tased, beaten, burned, and mashed up to a bloody pulp in Pain & Gain -- and that's just the first 40 minutes. By the time The Rock is grilling human hands and Wahlberg is returning a chainsaw to a local hardware store after cutting up bodies just an hour earlier, the movie wisely reminds us, "Still Based on a True Story." (Hollywood)

Despite generally positive reviews, some critics found flaws in the movie's lack of character development and uncaring presentation of disturbing real-life crimes.

Performances are strong and Wahlberg, Johnson, as well as Mackie all present competent "dark comedy" portrayals of the real-life Sun Gym Gang - but attempts to explore their individual arcs are regularly undercut by excessive and callow gags. Johnson's God-fearing Boyle takes the most fictional liberties, but is also the most likable of the trio; though, even in sympathetic moments, he's little more than an underdeveloped religious caricature - whose reservations fuel plot beats but fail to offer worthwhile payoff. Shalhoub's Kershaw is equally problematic - since he's detestable enough, yet not a particularly interesting foil for the Lugo, Doorbal, and Boyle (either as victim or antagonist). (The Screen Rant)
Michael Bay has finally moved past the metallic clang of the "Transformers" franchise, but he just might be benching too much with "Pain & Gain" by presenting this true story of torture, killing and kidnapping as a laughing matter. What if this movie was about last week's Boston bombings or the hunt for bin Laden? Would anyone still be laughing? (Fox News)

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