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Pain & Gain (AF)


Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Bar Paly, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, Michael Rispoli, Keili Lefkovitz

Director: Michael Bay

Michael Bay, director of such subtle shows as Transformers and Bad Boys shows off his sensitive side yet again with this brutal and bloody thriller.

“Unfortunately”, Ed Harris intones at the start, “This is a true story”. Which only goes to prove yet again, truth is stranger than fiction. And, in the practiced hands of Bay, it’s truly dreadful too.

As scripted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and based on stories by Pete Collins in the Miami New Times, the first word in the film – firmly spoken by Mark Wahlberg, is “F***!”

Well, at least that, and the ensuing tsunami of four-letter words throughout the film should ensure a sale to the UK’s Channel 4 television.

After hearing a motivational speaker, played by real-life doctor-turned actor Ken Jeong, best known as the deranged drunk in ‘The Hangover’ farces, frustrated personal trainer Wahlberg decides to make a new start by kidnapping client Tony Shalhoub and parting him from his illegally-derived wealth. Which he does, with the help of his fellow-body builder accomplices Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie.

And the result?

A gory barrage of battery, bloody slaughter and dismemberment as things go badly wrong for the dirty trio and they eventually end up in court for their crimes.

Interestingly, at one point during the driveling proceedings, Wahlberg states, “I see a lot of movies … I know what I’m doing” only to be proved disastrously wrong. It’s a pity that Bay who, presumably, not only sees a lot of movies but also makes plenty, didn’t take notice of the line.

To be fair, Bay generates some effective enough suspense and stages set pieces with technical skill and manages to create some crudely comic moments. That said – and the verdict is sadly inevitable - there’s far too much pain and far too little gain to make the movie worth seeing, apart from some attractively photographed (Ben Seresin) Miami locations.

(At the end we’re shown photographs of the original wrongdoers: if any of them are still alive, they might well consider suing Bay and his collaborators).

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Paramount. Technicolor.
129 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 3, Swearing 0.

Review date: 01 Sep 2013