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Movie Review: ‘Pain & Gain’

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(Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson star in "Pain & Gain," an ostensible comedy about bodybuilders turned kidnap-murderers.)

(Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson star in “Pain & Gain,” an ostensible comedy about bodybuilders turned kidnap-murderers.)

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By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Much pain, no gain.

That’s pretty much what you get when a movie director like Michael Bay, sensitive artist and sophisticated humorist that he is, decides to to bring a comedy (of all things) to the big screen.

After all, this is the guy who foisted Armageddon, The Rock, The Island, twin Bad Boys, and the cockamamie Transformers trilogy upon us.

Pain & Gain, a dark true-crime comedy based on the real-life exploits of a trio of Miami bodybuilders, is out of control from the very first flex to the very last shot, with Bay’s stabs at slapstick about as funny as a tax audit.

(1 star out of 4)

(1 star out of 4)

Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson star, and each takes a giant step backward in his career as a comedic actor — Wahlberg after shining in The Other Guys and Ted, Johnson after holding his own in a string of movies that didn’t hold theirs.

Each can thank Bay.  Under his knowing direction, the two leads manage to thoroughly embarrass themselves.

Pain & Gain is based on a series of 1999 Miami New Times articles by Pete Collins.  Wahlberg, Johnson, and Anthony Mackie play bodybuilders in Florida who, as a shortcut to the American Dream and riches they feel they deserve, become kidnappers, extortionists, torturers, and murderers.

Tony Shalhoub plays the rich Colombian-American businessman they target to separate from his fortune, while Ed Harris portrays the retired cop and private eye the victim eventually hires to track them down.

With protagonists this misguided, self-entitled, and despicable, there’s no rooting interest generated what-so-bleeping-ever.  What we get instead is an idiotic, hypocritical and pointless exercise in reveling in their criminal undertakings so we can tsk-tsk and disapprove if and when they eventually get caught.

The inept screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley plays right into the hands of Bay, who lives for gunfights, car chases, incendiary explosions, and other forms of overkill.

Even though he’s telling a true story that doesn’t need any credulity-undermining movie-movie embellishment, he just can’t help himself.  Consequently, everything seems a fabrication.

As for the acting, Bay couldn’t direct an actor to a decent performance if his life depended on it.  High-energy chaos is the only note this auteur can play (let’s call it Bayhem) -– and it gets old and obnoxious remarkably fast.

So we’ll extort just 1 star out of 4 for this musclebound, brain-dead, and monumentally unfunny comic caper, Pain & Gain.

“Unfortunately, this is a true story,” begins the narration. What it should say is, “Truly, this is an unfortunate story.”  And an unfortunate movie.

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