Saturday, 31 August 2013

Review: Pain & Gain

World of Blackout Film Review

Pain & Gain Poster

Pain & Gain
Cert: 15 / 129 mins / Dir. Michael Bay

Now there may have been moments in that trailer where you thought "Well, it looks lively and action-packed enough, but what's it actually about?". If it's any consolation, I asked myself the same thing several times during the actual film. Action-thriller? Heist-comedy? Philosophical-parable? Michael Bay aims for each of these and misses the bullseye with every shot. He's succeeded at taking a fairly straightforward story and making it needlessly complicated with sporadic internal monologue voice-overs from five characters. Because of this, it's unclear whose point-of-view we're meant to be seeing the story from, and who we're meant to be sympathising with (although that part's intentional, admittedly). By the time you've factored in a camera that won't stay still, stylised freeze-frames and captions that aren't used often enough to be a bona fide feature and a 'Now… 1990s' soundtrack, it's all a bit of a jumble. A well-intentioned jumble, but still.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't dislike Pain & Gain, but it felt like hard work trying to get any real enjoyment out of it. The action veers between chaotic and flat-out incoherent, and while you never lose track of the narrative, you get the feeling that in gentler hands this could have been a far more effective film. There are some joyous moments of adrenaline, and genuinely dark comedy; but it's forty minutes too long and hampered by more gear-changes than a Fast & Furious movie. For what it's worth, the performances by Wahlberg, Johnson, Mackie and Harris are all great, even if they're being directed all over the place.

I honestly think I enjoy Bay more when he's just showing us 50-ft robots beating the living oil out of each other, and Megan Fox leaning over a car bonnet. At least he's focused at that.

Michael Bay goes to great lengths to remind you that Pain & Gain is a true story; unfortunately he didn't stop to ask anyone how well he was telling it. If the film had the same clarity and drive as the central character, it might not be the steroid-injected hot mess that his partners-in-crime are.
Just because the crooks were stupid, it doesn't mean the movie has to be...

Is the trailer representative of the film?
It's a mess as well, so yes.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
I suppose I did, yes.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
It tries, but it's pulling in different directions. So no.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
DVD, tops.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Yes. Yes I will.

Will I watch it again?
Maybe with a commentary track?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

And my question for YOU is…
Question here

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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