Low angles, sweeping dolly shots, saturated colours and hot women wearing as little as possible - surely I’m talking about a Michael Bay film. His latest venture, ‘Pain and Gain’, is based on a true story - not ‘Pearl Harbour’ true (taking an actual event and built a fictitious story around it), but genuinely true. So unbelievably true, in fact, that halfway through the film, they have to remind you of this due to the absurd story and events.
Set in Miami in the early 90s, Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a charismatic personal trainer who values commitment to self-improvement and getting in a good pump. After attending a motivational seminar categorising people as "doers" and "don’t-ers", Daniel concludes he’s in the first category, and decides he and his friends Adrien (Anthony Mackie) and Paul (Dwayne Johnson) are going to kidnap and extort a disliked client (Tony Shalhoub). However, the trio’s incompetence and lack of experience quickly lead to things going from bad to worse.
In addition to ‘Pain & Gain’s' incredible story is its ability to find and squeeze the comedy out of every moment. In fact, Bay plays the comedy harder than the action side in a nice and surprising turn for the director. Don’t get me wrong - this is definitely a Michael Bay film, graphic violence and all, but it’s also a darn good yarn, punctuated with great performances by the three leads. Without the aide of spectacular gun fights and giant CGI robots, Bay proves that he is (despite constant scrutiny and criticism) a damn entertaining filmmaker.
At just over two hours in length, it pushes the attention threshold - especially considering its lack of “action” - but it scrapes by bearably (just). Nonetheless, the unwavering likability and charisma of the film's cast, including supporting roles from Ed Harris and Rebel Wilson, keep the workout punching along.