If there is one thing Michael Bay can never be guilty of, it is of not giving the people what they want. Based on a ridiculous true story, Pain & Gain is every bit the as glossy as it is muscle-bound; so inflatedly Bay that the ludicrous premise and wild characters are perfectly blended amongst the genuine, simple tone of its heart. Yes, it’s got heart.

Set in the sunset tones of Miami circa 1995, Pain & Gain tells the story of two well meaning, but frustrated bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie playing real life convicts Daniel Lugo and Adrian Doorbal) chasing the American dream. Feeling trapped by their lifestyle but looking up into the stars, they concoct a ham-fisted plan to kidnap and rob a rich Miami businessman (played with menace by Tony Shalhoub). Along the way, they meet hulked up ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) and stripper Sorina (played in true exquisite Michael Bay fashion by model/actress Bar Paly), adding to the oft bumbling, hilarious, but all too serious crimes they commit along the way. This includes murder and dismemberment.

Yet as serious as the matter at hand, Bay’s saturated direction, fast paced action, slow motion tracking and some nicely placed T&A means you’ll spend most of the film laughing and having a great time than worrying about the victims of this terrible crime. You get a lot of shots from below (placed conveniently anytime a nice looking lady is wearing something skimpy), recycled shots from Bad Boys, and thankfully, dialogue that is required to be both dumb and stupidly hilarious.

Wahlberg as Lugo leads the charge as the less than intellectually astute ringleader of the heist, and while his muscles have stopped blood flowing to his brain, he is the most driven and forward moving character in the film. Give credit to Johnson, who amongst all his brute force, shines as a character that ends up being funny, warm and endearing in the end. We’re surrounded by a motley crew of recognized faces- from cameos to second stringers- Bay has compiled an extremely likeable cast that features Ken Jeong, Rebel Wilson, Ed Harris and Rob Corddry. All of whom never detract from the humour, spills, and pace of the film.

As the film concludes, there is an air of satisfaction to it all; the story is complete and we end up genuinely caring about those involved (yes, even the boneheaded criminals- which has drawn some controversy).

It’s been awhile since Bay let his ability to craft humour, action and sex in a likeable fashion without a great deal of computer enhancement. We forget that he’s good at the kind of buddy comedy humour he perfected in Bad Boys, and Pain & Gain is by far his best movie since (although one can argue the original Transformers movie has something to say about that). You can’t help think that Bay is still very much on top of his game.

Pain & Gain is bulked up, ‘roided, and pumped. It’s a little bit Bad Boys, a little bit Miami Vice, and a whole lot of funny.

PAIN & GAIN
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Bar Paly, Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub
Released by: Paramount Pictures
Website: painandgainmovie.com

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