This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Nick J’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I guess I am a do-er because I do give this film a thumbs up...with, like, a shit ton of asterisks and really fine print at the bottom.
This is a film that really blows a short-fuse in my brain, more so than usual. The dialogue can be endless trash, it's grimy and filthy and raunchy in its content, and the line to how self-aware & tongue-in-cheek this is has completely evaporated. The sound byte of Michael Bay calling them "knuckleheads" is burned into my mind and it's so hard to tell what the film's intentions are. I guess I'll just tell you what I saw.
I saw a very entertaining pastiche of action-drama films. "Pain & Gain" is so melodramatic, Sirkian even, in its execution of ramping up events and revving up characters. Wahlberg, Johnson, Mackie, Shalhoub, Wilson, everyone...They all play their characters and play to the tone of the movie to perfection. They're in on a joke or they're not, it's so hard to tell, but like I'm going to deny it was an entertaining thrill ride. It's so beautifully heavy-handed with its imagery and themes about the American dream and corrupted aspirations to achieve it where everyone involved is some degree of a complete piece of shit. Very sound on all technical aspects and I really do think Bay's style here works very well at visualizing 90's Florida: gaudy, overly bright, sickly colors everywhere, it just works. It just works, that's how I describe "Pain & Gain," it just does, that right combination of schlock and the actual movie buried underneath.
It is just a film that drops a Peoples' Elbow right onto my sensibilities. It is pure, raw, nuclear entertainment. One of my personal favorite performances by The Rock, right next to the time he murdered Billy Gunn on live television.