Nonstop Movies: ‘Pain & Gain’

Director Michael Bay exemplifies the image of the “ugly American.” He’s excessive, over-indulgent, loud, brash and he doesn’t give a you-know-what.

I’ve missed him so much.

Bay has directed some of my favorite action films, including “Bad Boys,” “Bad Boys II,” “The Rock,” “Armageddon” and “The Island.” I’ve watched these films over and over again, so it puzzles me that he receives so much hate from movie critics and Internet movie geeks. There’s no denying his films are loud and dumb, but they’re just so much fun. I don’t know what haters are expecting out of a Michael Bay film other than two hours of entertaining cinematic eye candy.

So after dedicating a good part of the last decade to three “Transformers” movies, Bay finally returns to make films with real actors instead of robots and models, and what a glorious return it is. I initially thought “Pain & Gain” would be an action film, but it turned out to be a farcical comedy. The irony is that the incredibly ridiculous events in “Pain & Gain” actually happened.

The film is based on the true story of three knuckle-headed bodybuilders looking to score some quick riches. Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, the “brains” behind the operation. He gets all his ideas from watching movies, and it’s hilarious to see every plan go awry. Daniel is joined by Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), who needs money for a penile operation so can achieve erections again, and Paul Doyle (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a converted Christian who just got out of jail and needs seed money to start his life over. The three musclemen plot to kidnap rich guy Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) and force him to sign over his assets to them.

All four leads are great in their roles. Wahlberg obviously beefed up for the film and looks nothing like his Marky Mark days. He is so earnest in describing his idiotic plans that you can see how the dumb could lead the dumb just by pure enthusiasm and charisma. Mackie has some of the best lines of the film, and Johnson is given the opportunity to play a range of emotions as a man who doesn’t want to hurt anyone, yet is the most dangerous of the three. Shalhoub is also brilliant as Kershaw, the victim who’s actually more of a villain. Great supporting performances are also given by Rebel Wilson, Rob Corddry and former Bay actors Ken Jeong, Ed Harris and Peter Stormare.

“Pain & Gain” acknowledges that the events in the movie are ridiculously over-the-top and even reminds the audience during another unbelievable scene with on-screen text that assures, “this is still a true story.” A story with such remarkable idiocy actually seems right up Bay’s alley, and he doesn’t hold back in telling it in his signature fashion. All of the Bay trademarks are there, including the low-angle shots, the 360-degree camera turns, flashy lighting, strippers and everything audiences love or hate about Bay.

Me? I love the guy’s work, so I’m delighted to say that Bay is back and it was well worth the wait. I haven’t laughed harder during a movie this year.

“Pain & Gain,” 130 minutes, is Rated R and opens in theaters today.