In the opening moments of Pain and Gain it's stated: "unfortunately, what follows is a true story". The film proclaims deplorable behaviour awaits and director, Michael Bay, glamorises the gutter and the experience is nothing but agony. A group of bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie) living in Miami, Florida, plan to kidnap a local businessman (Tony Shalhoub) and extort his wealth but it goes horribly wrong.
The characters of Pain and Gain aspire to a perversion of the "American Dream" with big muscles, mansions and speedboats the mark of a self made man. Indeed, it's a superficial world the bodybuilder's inhabit, but any attempt Bay makes to examine the vacuous culture results in his own shallow approach sabotaging the intent. It's like Paris Hilton accusing Lindsay Lohan of having no class. There are small glimpses of Bay revealing the greedy nihilistic society that's present in American culture, but the filmmaker's work itself is evident of that fact, regardless of how the story plays out. All the characters are awful people and are championed for their sins and women are objects for the camera to linger on pornographically. Add jokes about rape, murder and a general disdain to anyone who doesn't conform to Bay's vision of perfect artificial beauty, and it's a very ugly film that takes itself far too seriously. Any speck of satire is blasted away by complete indulgence.
The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (based on journalist Pete Collins' book) is full of overlapping monologues from each character that states their credo and it grates constantly.
Amongst the filth, Johnson is surprisingly good playing a reformed drug addict and born again Christian who is at his best when off the wagon. Mackie wholeheartedly throws himself to the wolves with a ridiculous steroid fuelled character and Wahlberg shines in a few fast talking moments.
Pain and Gain is Bay's biggest dump on humanity to date. Yes, unfortunately it's based on a true story and unfortunately THIS film exists.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies