Michael Bay is hardly the most subtle of directors. Helming movies such as Transformers and The Rock, his talent for providing humorous carnage is unquestioned. Pain and Gain is more of the same filled with a menagerie of muscled men armed with hi-tech weapons. It is just as dispensable as his previous work. Even more comedic than his usual action forays Pain and Gain lives up to its misbegotten title.
Daniel (Mark Wahlberg), Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) are body-builders looking for a better life. They hatch an audacious plan to kidnap Victor (Tony Shalhoub), a wealthy criminal. Hoping to extort money from him, their plans quickly go awry. With their biceps seemingly bigger than their brains, the hulking trio of kidnappers soon find themselves out of their depths and desperate to clean their tawdry mess.
Based on a true story, Pain and Gain is often hard-going. Taking huge liberties, it revels in its fictional layers at the expense of its factual source. Whilst what actually occurred sounds suitably bizarre, the script takes the comedic elements too far. You simply don’t believe in the idiocy of the main trio with the actors trying too hard to be funny. Humour should be effortless with the forced nature of Pain and Gain becoming tiresome.
As each plot element becomes more ridiculous, so does the action, mostly involving car chases and physical dismemberment. This could have been fine had Pain and Gain been more like Pulp Fiction – one of the best crime caper films in recent times. Sadly it isn’t a patch on that fine work with Bay relentlessly going for style over substance.
Pain and Gain is a cinematic version of a double maths lesson. Often a chore with too many flat spots becoming a waste of time for all involved with any spark of ingenuity quickly fading.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 2