Pain & Gain

Pain & Gain ★★★★½

I still can’t believe that Michael Bay made one of my favorite films of 2013. Mark Wahlberg, The Rock and Anthony Mackie have all never been better and the film really does strike the perfect balance between hilarious and terrifying. Wahlberg’s venomous declaration of intent to Tony Shalhoub’s Victor Keyshaw (“I don’t just want everything you have! I want you not to have it!”) really captures just how frightening and powerful masculine entitlement can become.

At the risk of embarrassing myself, the story of Danny Lugo and the Sun Gym gang as told in repulsive excess by Bay almost makes them come across like classic, tragic Shakespearean figures; blinded by their ego and ambition and mistakenly falling in love with their own legend. It’s Macbeth by way of The Three Stooges and, even more amazingly, its more cartoonish and absurd elements are somehow the most accurate. 

That slick, vibrant, overly colorful style of Bay’s finally found a film where it worked; what better mood for a movie tackling greed and toxic entitlement in America than loud, trashy and bright as possible? You can totally tell this is the kind of movie that Bay has been wanting to make for over a decade.

This is Bay’s magnum opus and I think he’s perfectly fine with this being the one and only showcase of his true potential. I think the fact that Pain & Gain is such an obvious riff on capitalist excess and the idiots who covet it so pathetically only hits that much harder when most of Bay’s filmography succeeding it indulges in that very same excess. Pain & Gain is his first (And possibly last) truly honest film.

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