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Pain & Gain (2013)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/27/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/28/2013

If you've never read an argument about whether Michael Bay is a great director or a terrible director, then apparently you've never visited any websites which focus on movies. Yes, the online fanboys love to debate the merits of Mr. Bay's films, some calling them harmless fun, while others like to label him as the worst director who has ever lived. But, seeing as how the 10 movies which Bay has directed have grossed nearly $1.9 billion in the U.S. alone, I'm sure he doesn't care what the internet community thinks about him. (The funny thing is that these people continue to complain about him, but apparently someone's going to see him movies.) Still, something must have gotten to Bay, as he's done something a little different with his latest film Pain & Gain. Will it continue his string of successes?

Pain & Gain is based on a true story which took place in Miami in 1995. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a body-builder and personal trainer who longs for the finer things in life. He helps rich people exercise all day, and he wants to be like them. Inspired by a self-help guru, Daniel enlists co-worker Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and fresh-out-of-prison ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) to help him fulfill his dream. They kidnap sandwich shop mogul Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), holding him hostage and torturing him until he signs over all of his assets to them. Leaving Kershaw for dead, the three begin living the high life. But, one scheme wasn't enough, and they soon begin to set their sights on another rich man. Meanwhile, these sloppy amateurs crooks are leaving clues everywhere and a private detective (Ed Harris) is beginning to close in on them.

As noted above, Pain & Gain is somewhat of a change of pace for Michael Bay, especially coming on the heels of three straight Transformers movies. The film is a dark comedy which combines elements of drama and action as well. Obviously, Bay has made plenty of action movies and he has shown some talent with comedy in the Bad Boys films. But, Pain & Gain is still a decided departure for Bay, as the film is very much grounded in reality (again, it's a true story) and, at times, it tries to be a straight-ahead absurd comedy.

After being in the business for over 20 years, and directing many films which have made a lot money, one would easily consider Bay to be business savvy, but he's in over his head here, as he takes Pain & Gain in many wrong directions. First of all, he does a bad job of handling the comedy. This is a movie about inept criminals who turn out to be very bad people, so much of the humor is intended to be very dark. Yet, Bay, who has shown a penchant for immature comedy in the past, simply doesn't know how to handle this, so what she be gallows humor comes off as awkward or simply in bad taste. He doesn't know how to combine torture and comedy in a way where we forget about the torture for a moment and laugh in spite of ourselves. Secondly, Bay doesn't seem to grasp the movie's themes. The film should be questioning Daniel's obsession with both his body and the trappings of the rich, but Bay seems to be incapable of photographing things so that they look ugly. So, instead, the movie appears to be glamorizing body-building and expensive houses and cars. Even when the movie shows us something which is meant to be negative, such as steroid use, it's still shot in a way which resembles a commercial. As odd as this may sound, this would have been a perfect project for the Coen Brothers, as they would have skewered the characters and their crazy ideas, while nailing the absurdity of it all.

While Bay may not have a grasp on the material, the actors appear to be giving it their all. Wahlberg is deadly serious and sincere as Daniel, and even when he's saying and doing the most ludicrous things, we believe that he believes it. Dwayne Johnson continues to stretch as an actor, taking on a role of someone who is decidedly corrupt. He's still too gregarious in his performance, but he does a good job of playing dumb. Tony Shalhoub is excellent here, playing a character who is always unlikable, even when he's being tortured.

If you read the news reports about what Daniel Lugo and his cohorts did, you'll find that the movie represents things fairly accurately and that the real-life tale is just as crazy as the movie leads us to believe. Thus, it's a shame that the film does so many things wrong. In addition to the above issues, the movie runs for 129 minutes, which is simply too long for something which feels like it needs to wrap up in the first hour. To his credit, Bay has toned down his editing style somewhat here, and I did like the fact that even the most violent scenes where shot against the bright, sunlit vistas of Miami, but Pain & Gain is a total miscue when it comes to tone and that makes the movie feel like one long tasteless joke.

Pain & Gain made me realize that I'm doing my side of a building sit ups all wrong on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing on distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The image is very crisp, looking as if we could step into it. The colors look fantastic, most notably the pastels, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, as we can see ever cut on Victor's face and the depth is notable, as the characters are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very muscular (no pun intended) track which really comes to life during the action sequences, delivering wall-shaking subwoofer effects and detailed surround sound. We can make out individual sounds in the rear channels. Likewise, the stereo effects are detailed and show good separation. Overall, a great technical package.

The Pain & Gain Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features. (It's unusual for a semi-major title like this to have no extras. This either means that everyone has distanced themselves from the movie or that Bay has a special edition planned for the future.)

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.