Pain & Gain Review

Big burly action is what Pain & Gain offers with its successful call-backs to the glory days of big-budget action entertainment. A dying breed this sort of film may be, it does not stop Michael Bay from turning in another expectedly explosive bit of work. The American Dream, in one way or another, will chew up and spit out whoever it can. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) was one such man. His belief in fitness as the future of the country and as part of his own personal American Dream is a fascinating self-made rise and fall. Daniel Lugo is of the Jordan Belfort category in the sense that he is a self-made man that will stop at nothing to fulfil his goal as a freewheeling, charismatic businessman.

Destination Muscle Mecca was open for business. Wahlberg displays that usual confidence in the leading role. He is the right man for the job, and alongside Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson, the quality is inevitably strong. Naturally destined to be something bigger than others perceive him as Lugo is shown to have the ego so many Americans have in the same disposition as the average Joe. Tony Shalhoub is the spark of brilliance that sets Lugo off on that dangerous path that soon led to his arrest and series of criminal convictions. Understanding Bay and the predilections of his larger-than-life dialogue is key to unlocking the joy of Pain & Gain. It is a thoroughly brilliant feature that relies on charismatic actors playing detestable dreamers.

That mixture is surprisingly well-meaning and presented superbly. The glitz and glam of The American Dream escaped many because of how personal and challenging it was. For those at Muscle Mecca, the end goal is doing. What it is they hope to do is conditional. Johnson has some surprises up his sleeve, primarily as being able to hold his own in a film that, while relying on his charms as an action lead, provides him with a spirited role of a man trying to keep his nose clean. Mackie does well too, the backstories to the three men and the reason they want to keep themselves physically active is a desire to hit it big without intense or active work. Peter Stormare, Ken Jeong and Rob Corddry are all exceptional in their supporting moments. A scene in a backstory here, a jab at the American Dream there, it all comes together with exceptional quality.

Stupidly macho and impossible to hate, Pain & Gain has a dependable Hollywood action sheen to it that only Bay can manage. It is dumb fun with a wry twinkle in its eye and a tongue-in-its-cheek tone that few other actors could manage. Mackie, Wahlberg and Johnson are an incredibly cast trio. Comedy and humour blur surprisingly perfectly with the desire of three men to rob rich men and use the money in a self-made Robin Hood-style. Their dreams are big but their inability to pull off the basic crimes that will get them there is their downfall. Like all good kidnapping action flicks, the consequences are based on real events and embellished for the good of the movies. Bay is the best man for the job, and the crew he assembles for Pain & Gain is a promising one that fills this feature with action, intensity and just the right dash of humour.

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