'Pain and Gain' Blu-ray Review: Tortured Take on American Dream Hits Darkly Original Notes
I have no idea what kind of financial maneuvering Michael Bay had to pull off to get funding for a crazy movie like Pain and Gain, but I am so glad he did.
Pain and Gain, available Aug. 27 on Blu-ray and DVD, is an unforgettable film that is twisted in all the right ways, funny in all the right parts and just an overall breath of fresh air for cinema lovers looking for something different.
Pain and Gain is based on an absolutely insane but true story out of Miami. The original magazine articles that chronicled the brutal and brutally stupid crimes were written by Pete Collins, and I recommend viewers check them out after meeting of our three bodybuilders portrayed by Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie (all giving some of their best and most pitch perfect performances).
Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, who believes in ambition and the American dream but is too stupid to realize how to succeed in the face of his own laziness. He concocts a plan with his egghead friends to kidnap a rich client, torture him, take everything he's got and move on.
To reveal more would be a crime because half the enjoyment of Pain and Gain is seeing what crazy and dumb concoctions these three characters come up with and then remind ourselves that this is all a true story (Bay humorously reminds us a few times in the movie itself).
This movie is certainly not for everyone. It's brutal, funny in dark ways and twisted on all levels. By mostly sticking to the true story here and by creating his own film animal, Bay has also made a movie that will unsettle many viewers, but aren't those usually the best kind?
What works about Pain and Gain is the tone. The story is one that only someone like Bay could get greenlit. He takes a tortured tale with three despicable characters, and he makes it somehow human, relatable and worthy of our time. The film jumps from being poignant to laugh out loud funny to sickeningly gruesome and yet Bay's touch never feels insincere. He's found a way to make all this craziness stick together.
Bay has constructed a convoluted cautionary tale on taking shortcuts to the American dream. By using that as his backdrop, the film and script somehow work on a whole new level beyond a story about three meat- heads and a few botched kidnappings. It's a pretty original touch that keeps Pain and Gain from being self- indulgent or in bad taste.
The performances are all top notch. Our three main cast members actually make us care about what happens to these sick cats and supporting players like Ed Harris and Tony Shalhoub (among others) are at the top of their game.
The film is not without faults. Sometimes Bay throws a little too much information at the audience at once and the film could have been leaner (it runs over two hours). However, overall Pain and Gain is one of the most original films of the year and it's certainly the film that proved to me that Bay is more than just a director of movies about giant toys. Pain and Gain proves he's a true artist with a touch and a voice unlike any of his peers.
Let's hope he's got some more Pain and Gain like features in him come the future.
Unfortunately, the blu-ray and DVD combo pack comes with no special features. It's a shame since it could have been packed with features on everything from Bay working with a smaller budget to the story behind the story which is somehow even more twisted and dark than what's on screen.
Pain and Gain is a flick like no other this year. It's unforgettable, hard, funny, sad and everything in between. It's worth a watch if you like character driven stories that are darker than most. Chances are you'll want to watch it again. It's that good.
There's a little too much of the same old crap going on in movies these days. There's big explosions, end of the world scenarios, generic characters and predictable storyline. If you're tired of all of that then Pain and Gain is a breath of fresh air that you won't soon forget.