Pain & Gain - Blu-ray Review

'Bay finds a small handful of good individual moments but, mostly, he wanders around his film, laughing nervously, unsure of whether he should be doing so or not.'

'I believe in fitness' begins Michael Bay's Pain & Gain, the 'smaller' film he wanted to make before he returns to the Transformers franchise and other CGI concerns. For a 'small' film, that opening line hints at bigger aims and desires, comparison points Bay hopes his film will remind you of: you just can't start a film with 'I believe in...' without calling to mind The Godfather, a movie referenced explicitly by Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) just a few minutes later. That's right: Pain & Gain is the film Bay considers his multi-level, state-of-the-nation crime opus.

Once you've picked yourself up from laughing, it's also fair to say that the attempt at this lofty aim is actually one of the more successful elements of Bay's film. I've seen comparisons between this and Spring Breakers and certainly they are there to be made. Lugo and criminal compatriots Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) are all obsessed with self-image and materialistic desire. 'Look at mah shit!', Lugo may as well say, as he parades around his ill-gotten gains on a sit-on lawnmower he has previously coveted as a symbol of success. There is plenty here about American excess, about a get rich quick philosophy that leads to seriously broken thinking and outrageous criminal harm.

It's also easy to believe that the opening line is not an accident when you consider that Bay was probably exactly the sort of person to festoon his frat house walls with reverent Godfather posters and in the end that is where Pain & Gain falls down: it's a version of the crime epic, made by someone with the artistic maturity of a fratboy.

Bay's film is lurid and lairy, out of control and respectful of all of the wrong people. It can't decide who its heroes are, it can't decide who it wants to poke fun at, nor how much and it apparently can't decide on whether it supports the get rich and die young philosophy or abhors it. Bay finds a small handful of good individual moments but, mostly, he wanders around his film, laughing nervously, unsure of whether he should be doing so or not.

And in doing that, Bay falls back on what he knows best: slow motion shots of things he thinks look nice. Bouncing strippers, convertibles tearing down sun-drenched freeways, Wahlberg and Johnson's pummelling musculature, Rebel Wilson's sexually-charged 'banter'. In doing so, he loses any sense of message or maturity his film may have once had, settling instead for coarseness and a bloated runtime that doesn't help the audience to swallow the moral medicine. This could have worked as action comedy, moral drama, crime epic, fratboy oggle-fest or dark hearted thriller. It hardly works at all as an uncertain mess of all of those things.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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