I’m not, normally, a Michael Bay fan and I find his treatment of women despicable. So imagine my surprise when Pain & Gain blew me away.
It’s deeply ironic, and that is what I usually miss in Bay’s stuff. The script is wonderful, told through the point of view of multiple narrators (all of them unreliable). These guys are not good criminals. They are total boobs, in fact. Not one of them has a working brain in his noggin. All of them are susceptible to being swayed (each one of them is a broken man). The acting is great, across the board, and I loved Ed Harris’ small role as the retired detective, tracking down these guys, wearing a porkpie hat. It’s a fascinating story (I loved one moment, closing in on the end, when the scene freezes on a particularly grotesque moment, and the words: THIS IS STILL A TRUE STORY appear on the screen), and I didn’t know much about it going in. I assumed these three guys would be taken down, because how could they not be, but the film ends up being about the Dumbbell’s version of the American Dream, the moronic swallowing of every myth out there, thinking that you are owed a piece of the pie just because you are a “do-er”. Being a “do-er” is irrelevant: WHAT you “do” matters more than the mere act of “do-ing”, you idiot. But none of these guys got that memo. They swallowed the motivational speaker’s shallow version of the American Dream whole. The steroids don’t help. The film is funny, violent, smart, and great looking. It’s mean about women, it’s mean about fat people, it’s mean about gay sex, and that’s all part of the broken-ness of these three men. They are stupid shits, and the worst part is: They mean well. And do not even realize their own shallowness and broken-ness. Each one of the three lead actors is able to present that complex blend of brokenness and pumped-up power in a way that is quite vulnerable, because nobody comes off looking good here.
One of my favorite films of the year.