Pain & Gain

Pain & Gain ★★★★

I’ve seen a lot of people frame this is a dumb guy or testosterone heavy Coen brothers movie and while I don’t think that’s a bad comparison, I think it short sells what’s going on here. This movie is so mean and exploitative and ugly, and the fact it plays as a black comedy is so unsettling. I almost think it’s more productive to consider the movies that Lugo models himself after: The Godfather and Scarface (it’s also not lost on me that he does a Tony Montana-esque accent when trying to disguise his voice). There’s a really played out meme that comes up every few years about guys who unironically worship at the altar of Tyler Durden, Tony Montana, Travis Bickle, Rorschach, etc. and I think Lugo embodies that, so naive about what success and the “American Dream” mean (and these are such abstract ideas you can’t entirely blame him) that the cruelty and violence he commits are simply natural extensions of his idolatry. Ed Harris steals the show as a no-bullshit PI, who serves as such a breath of fresh air given how wrapped up in bullshit and delusions all the other characters are.  This is maybe my favorite The Rock performance too — he’s shockingly good at playing an unstable maniac. Bay works shockingly well on a small budget, hopefully we can get a few more like this from him (though maybe a little less exploitative).

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