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Pain & Gain (Blu-ray Review)

23 Aug, 2013 By: John Latchem

Street 8/27/13
Box Office $49.85 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use.
Stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Bar Paly, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, Michael Rispoli, Kelli Lefkovitz, Emily Rutherfurd.

It’s an odd thing to consider, but Pain & Gain may be the closest thing you’ll get to a passion project from Michael Bay. The modestly budgeted crime caper is certainly a more streamlined affair than the action spectacles that have defined Bay’s career (especially considering he made this coming off a trilogy of “Transformers” films).

The dark comedy is based on a true story about a gang of bodybuilders in Miami who decided to extort wealth from local swells. The smaller scale of the story doesn’t stop Bay from indulging in his usual directorial flourishes of sweeping camera angles and an ear-ringing soundtrack, while the testosterone-fueled machismo on display is certainly well within Bay’s wheelhouse.

Pain & Gain employs an odd storytelling structure that relies on narration from several of the main characters relating their inner monologues to the audience. The screenplay is credited to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who have been busy lately working on various Marvel Comics movies such as “Thor” and “Captain America.”

Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie star as the bodybuilders, who kidnap a rich client (Tony Shalhoub) in a misguided attempt to force him to sign his fortune over to them, which changes into a murder scheme once he recognizes them. They aren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in the pack, and their stupidity is the film’s best source of laughs, most notably a lengthy sequence in which the Wahlberg dimwit runs into an obstacle filing his transfer of property paperwork because he has no idea what a notary is.

Movies that want us to sympathize with criminals can work if their victims are depicted as horrible people who deserve it, but that really isn’t the case here, forcing the movie to walk a tricky tightrope without giving the audience much of a rooting interest. Sure, Shalhoub plays his character as an abusive douchebag, but nowhere near as deserving as what the main trio tries to do to him.

Usually, questions about exactly what the film was trying to accomplish with this kind of murky character study would be addressed in a commentary or making-of featurette, but alas, there are no extras on the disc to speak of or provide any enlightenment.

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