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Pain & Gain: A Premise Worthy of the Coen Bros., Unfortunately by Michael Bay

Pain & Gain: A Premise Worthy of the Coen Bros., Unfortunately by Michael Bay

Somewhere out there in an alternate universe, I'd like to think that Pain & Gain was directed by the Coen brothers. It's a premise that seems ideal for them: the true story of a team of lunkheaded Florida bodybuilders who decide to kidnap a wealthy deli owner and hold him hostage until he agrees to sign over his fortune. The story gets weirder, ultimately involving a porn magnate, a retired private detective, several bushelsful of severed body parts, and a whole lot of stupid choices.

But for whatever reason—karmic punishment?—we live in a universe where Michael Bay directed Pain & Gain. This is not entirely a bad thing: Bay's coked-up camerawork and obscene overuse of filters, slow motion, and other directorial trickery work pretty well with the idiocy on display in the story. The problem comes, as it usually does, with Bay's sense of humor. In Bay's world, no punch line is funnier than laughing at a fat woman because she's fat, and no subtle joke goes unbludgeoned. He's overwhelmed by the tone changes that the script requires, so the third act's hideously gory twists land awkwardly after the first hour's (mostly) harmless shenanigans.

Thankfully, at least Pain & Gain was made with the perfect cast: Mark Wahlberg brings his not-quite-self-aware slowness to the American-dream-believing "mastermind" of the plot, Daniel Lugo, and he's as compelling as you've seen him in a while. Likewise, The Rock is better as a cokehead born-again Christian than he's been in years. Everyone else in the cast—Rob Corddry, Ken Jeong, Ed Harris, Rebel Wilson, Coen regular Tony Shalhoub—acquit themselves admirably, too. I'd like to think that, in the alternate universe I mentioned before, the Coen brothers gathered the same cast to make Pain & Gain, and some of these people won Oscars for it. As it is, in this universe, we're left holding a greasy mixed bag. recommended

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Comments (3) RSS

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1
I'm sorry, but in this still Anthony Mackie looks too much like Frozone in the cheaply-animated short on The Incredibles extras for me to take this movie seriously -- if the Michael Bay director credit hadn't already done that.
Posted by Jared Bascomb on April 27, 2013 at 9:52 PM · Report this
2
The Coen brothers promulgated the high camp, visually accentuated, more loud than subtle comedy (Raising Arizona) that people knowingly laugh out loud at during SIFF, daring anyone else not to "get the joke".

You decry this cinematic ribaldry because its style is now in the hands of someone who doesn't have enough hipster credits in his coolness wallet.

And yes, the Coens are some of America's worst directors.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on April 28, 2013 at 8:26 AM · Report this
3
My boyfriend and I were in the mood to see something kind of horrible and blockbuster so we went to check this out. First movie I have walked out on in years, and this was after like 20-30 minutes. I thought it would be the kind of bad that you could laugh at and have fun with but no, it was just gross, blatantly misogynistic (I mean, expect that in most mainstream movies, but whoa!) and poorly acted (except for by the Rock, whom I have this inexplicable love for).
Posted by Idra on April 28, 2013 at 10:23 AM · Report this

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