Pain & Gain is the surreal, hyperactive result of the director responsible for the imminent destruction of independent, low-budget cinema attempting to make a low-budget film. Michael Bay, whose trademarks include slow-motion action shots and slow motion up-skirt shots, was obviously feeling a bit bored in between “directing” (I use the word lightly) his third and fourth Transformers efforts, so gathered together Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Ed Harris and Anthony Mackie to make a true-story action-comedy. The main problem with this film is that it’s actually very clever in parts. I despise Bay’s previous work with a passion, and very much expected and wanted to hate this film, but he sure made it difficult for me! Wahlberg and Johnson are masters of their craft, combining relentless charm and hilarity to create two brilliantly realised, and ridiculously stupid, characters. Johnson’s character’s religious beliefs result in many great scenes and jokes, and the former wrestler’s (who stars in no less than five films this half of the year) ability to mock hardcore Christianity is a pleasant surprise. Bay’s extremely leery eye is present at all times, and several utterly unnecessary strip-club scenes bring the film right back down to where it belongs.
Eventually, the film ended and I was reminded that the whole thing was a true story, and that Wahlberg and Mackie’s characters were given the death penalty. The fact that I had forgotten this made me feel like a truly terrible person, and the fact that Bay not only managed to make me forget this but made me laugh at his completely tasteless two hours of nastiness reminded me what a villain he is. The only problem- he’s a pretty smart villain, and this film is smarter than it should be.