When Michael Bay goes small, "Pain & Gain" happens.
Humans handle the bone-crunching. The gore becomes gorier. The dialogue increases substantially too.
Metal things may not transform, but they still make a world of hurt delivered by "Pain & Gain's" iron-pumping bodybuilders.
The suddenly budget-conscious Bay shot the movie in and around his Miami mansion, so maybe that reference to "Mickey D's fries" wasn't a joke. And yet he still can't wrap up the action in less than two hours.
"Pain & Gain" is based on the true story of a kidnapping scam in the mid-'90s cooked up by a trio of bodybuilders. Maybe it's the steroids, maybe they were born that way, but the brawny bunch portrayed by
It makes for some stupid/slap-shtick fun of the Stooges variety — that is, if Larry, Curly and Moe had been hunky gym rats engaged in illegal activity.
The screenwriting team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely adapted the story from a series of newspaper articles by Pete Collins about the notorious Florida fiasco. M&M were part of the writing pack for the gentle "Narnia" films and the upright citizen "Captain America." For "Pain," they have gone solo and bad to the bone with mixed results.
Some of the dialogue is very snappy, some of it a little sappy, all of it super salty with the sort of four-letter carpet bombing that ensured an R before the first boob was bared or blood was shed.
The "brains" behind this mess-up belong to Danny Lugo (Wahlberg), who makes his living as a trainer at a Miami gym. Most of his clients are rich guys he increasingly resents for their funds as well as their flab. A day with motivational speaker Johnny Wu (
At first Danny is content to take his newfound wisdom to a new gym run by John Mese (
Somehow Danny thinks that they can kidnap Victor, force him to sign over all of his assets and not have anyone, including the bankers, his employees or even his family tip off the police. Weirdly, that is basically what happens.
But Victor, bravely played by Shalhoub, turns out to be a surprisingly tough nut to crack. A good deal of the movie is spent in the cracking, and a lot of pain is inflicted in the process. The brutality is tough to stomach, even for Paul and Adrian; some moviegoers will find it untenable. The extreme measures are so insanely bizarre that reminders this is a true story keep popping up on the screen.
Victor isn't their only mark, or their only mistake. Beyond the scamming, there are side stories about medical issues, a marriage and a neighborhood watch.
Suffice it to say, "Pain & Gain" is not going to overshadow
Bay has enlisted a few
'Pain & Gain'
MPAA rating: R for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, rough language throughout and drug use
Running time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Playing: In general release