I’m perfectly fine with the concept of “no pain, no gain”. What I do have a problem with is when I am promised some form of a “gain” and as a result I sit through two hours of “pain”, but end up feeling tortured instead. That’s what Pain & Gain does.
I would however like to make it clear that I am not a member of the “stop Michael Bay from making movies” clan. In fact I am completely content with the Transformer films that he did and most of his earlier works. I also like the fact that he tries something different with Pain & Gain, other than his usual action films that are high on special effects; but the film simply doesn’t make the impact that it should.
This real life story about three everyday body-builders working in a Gym taking up the route of kidnapping and murder to make a quick buck is quite “out of this world” and this is reiterated in the film when at one point Dwayne Johnson’s character is barbecuing hands (not a typo) out in the open and a subtitle comes on the screen stating “this is still a true story”. All the characters, be it played by Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, or Tony Shalhoub seem like cartoon characters that have stepped out of an indie-comic book. Still, it is this absurdity about the entire case that makes the film somewhat interesting and watchable.
Where Michael Bay fails to entice the audience is in not letting them relate with any of the characters. Either they are way out there, or are simply dislikeable enough that even though they are being wronged you don’t feel a connection with them. Moreover, he does step away from action, but doesn’t completely let go of his trademark direction including slow motion scenes and especially a scene where the camera revolves between two rooms, again and again, in a single shot, as seen in Bad Boys.
The most annoying aspect of the film has to be the continuous voice-overs from each and every primary character of the film. As a result, the film at times has a documentary feel to it, with the story being told by various sources, rather than one character reminiscing the entire episode. Again, I have enjoyed voice-overs and they normally don’t bother me, but the excessive use and the film being a tad too long simply adds on the irritation factor. Moreover, the “dark” comedy that is supposed to envelope the story comes across more as slapstick or stupid comedy and thus the laughs just aren’t there that one might term the film as a moderate comedy either.
Pain & Gain is more of a pain than gain. It takes an interesting story and what could have been a brilliant viewing experience in the hands of say, the Coen brothers, but ends up being a glamorized crime dark-comedy (or tries to be one) that is too long and too detached to be enjoyed thoroughly by the audience.