All Pain with almost nothing to Gain in this outlandish caper
Based on an outlandish true crime, comedy caper Pain & Gain seems a snug fit for director Michael Bay.
Ever since he blitzkrieged the big screen with his 1995 buddy cop movie Bad Boys, the Los Angeles-born film-maker has elevated macho posturing and wanton destruction to preposterous heights.
He reduced Alcatraz to rubble in The Rock, threatened to obliterate the planet in Armageddon and then orchestrated mayhem on an apocalyptic scale with his recent Transformers trilogy.
So this unlikely tale of three steroid-pumped Miami gym bunnies, who live the American dream by kidnapping a wealthy businessman and torturing their hostage for his fortune, allows Bay to indulge his usual visual excesses while reducing virtually all female characters to scantily clad sex objects or dim wits.
Gender equality and nuance remain estranged from Bay’s testosterone-fuelled work.
Were it not for a fitfully amusing supporting performance from the ever reliable Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids), Bay might have been able to trim the 25 million US Dollar budget by replacing all women in the film with cardboard cut-outs.
Wheeler dealer Danny Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) secures a position as manager of the Sun Gym, where he grows envious of the rich and fabulous lifestyle of some of his unfit clients.
In particular, Danny yearns to splash the cash like Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub).
So the money-oriented meathead devises a hare-brained scheme to abduct Kershaw, aided by two fellow adrenaline junkies: personal trainer Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), who has been rendered impotent through steroid abuse, and ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), who has turned his life around on the outside thanks to Jesus.
Danny, Paul and Adrian are woefully inept and its takes them more than one attempt to capture and restrain their target.
The trio quickly discovers that Kershaw won’t sign over his assets without a fight.
Scenes of torture escalate into attempted murder but their target proves remarkably resilient and - miraculously - escapes.
Miami-Dade police fail to believe his crazy story so Kershaw turns to retired private detective Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) to bring Danny and his buddies to justice before they can adapt their plan for another unsuspecting victim (Michael Rispoli).
Based on a series of articles published in the Miami New Times, Pain & Gain is an ordeal.
Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely mix a heady cocktail of violence and dark humour in the style of the Coen brothers, which curdles.
Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie embrace the dim-wittedness of their characters by forgetting to act.
The 129-minute running time is as exhausting as any gym workout, with none of the cardiovascular benefits.
Bay’s film is all pain with almost nothing to gain from our point of view.
Star rating: 4/10
Pain & gain (15, 129 min)
Comedy/Action/Romance. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Rebel Wilson, Tony Shalhoub, Rob Corddry, Ken Jeong. Director: Michael Bay.