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PAIN & GAIN
DIRECTOR: Michael Bay
CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rebel Wilson
CLASSIFICATION: 16 LVSD
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)
It looks like a Michael Bay movie – swirling camera work, heavily saturated colours, lots of slo-mo shots and, of course, a huge plane slowly descending over a skyscraper skyline.
It feels like a Michael Bay movie – high budget action, fast edits and a Steve Jablonsky score heavy on 1990s hits that even steals a bit from the Transformers theme.
But, going as it does for a surreal bent and not really succeeding, it doesn’t quite work like a Michael Bay movie, which emphasises slick spectacle over story detail.
Here the spectacle is gruesome and repugnant, though the inadvertent comedy due to sheer incompetence and stupidity is slightly funny because of the “Oh no, he didn’t” factor.
The film takes its cue from a series of articles written for the Miami New Times about members of the Sun Gym who kidnapped, tortured, extorted and murdered several victims.
For plot purposes the film reduces the characters to three bad guys and three victims. Every now and then, just as the story reaches ridiculous proportions, you are reminded that this is based on a true story.
The three main guys, Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg), Paul Doyle (Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Mackie), kidnap Victor Kershaw (Shalhoub) and torture him into signing over all his assets.
Lugo firmly believes that he deserves more out of life and has no problem hurting people to get it.
Doyle is a conflicted softie who wants to live for Jesus, but loves coke too much, while Doorbal’s steroid use has killed off his sex drive.
All three are extremely buff, and all that lifting of weights seems to have crushed their common sense regarding what is right and wrong.
You didn’t go to college, thereby guaranteeing you will be obsessed by pectoral muscles, Kershaw tells Lugo, who proceeds to beat him up.
This, with a couple of lines from Lugo defiantly justifying his actions as his right in the pursuit of the American Dream, could make the film seem like an indictment of the obsession with physical perfection and the pursuit of an idealised way of life that is dependent on having lots of money.
Standing so far outside the original context of the story, a South African audience may not take as much issue with the film as American critics have, deriding as they have how far the film strays from the original events and how it tries to create sympathy for the criminals.
The criminals are painted as stupid, incompetent and unable to understand the consequences of their actions, so if viewed simply as a comedy action film, with a surreal bent and way too much stylised violence, it could have worked, but the ick factor of the violence undermines all the competent technical effort.
The visuals repulse more than the message attracts, the opposite of how the director usually works. But it is noisy. Must be a Michael Bay.
If you liked, Domino, you will like this.
WIN! WIN! WIN!
With Pain & Gain opening in cinemas nationwide today, Tonight is offering ten lucky readers the chance to win a spot prize attached to the movie. The prize consists of a gym towel and an iPod holder, all featuring the film’s title treatment. To stand a chance of winning, all you need to do is send your name and contact details to email@example.com. The competition closes on Wednesday, August 28, at midnight. Only the winners will be contacted.