I know this is going to sound absurd, in the same way as saying that of all the mass murders in the world, one of them is not as bad as the others — because can any mass murderer truly be better or worse than another? — but seriously, Pain and Gain might just be the best movie Michael Bay ever directed.
In the past I’ve had a mixed relationship with Michael Bay — see this for proof — and I had good reason to feel the way I did. After all, of late he’s done nothing to really inspire me to change my mind. I mean, with three straight Transformers movies to his name, it was starting to look like he’d basically given up any shred of integrity he ever had. If he ever had any to begin with.
But with Pain and Gain, which I only saw because the tickets were basically free, I was pleasantly surprised — I guess that’s the advantages of lowered-expectations. Sure, it’s got all the usual over-the-top excess and fetishization of women and cops and guns his other movies have, but for once Bay’s style and the subject matter come together perfectly. And as much as I loved The Island, and as much as I liked Pearl Harbor — I’m not ashamed to admit I liked it, even if I might’ve been the only one — Pain and Gain might just be better than both. It’s energetic, it’s witty, it’s fast paced, has chemistry and charisma to spare, all held together by deliriously-unhinged and intensely-watchable performances from Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, and catchy supporting turns from Stanley Tucci and Rebel Wilson.
My only issue: it’s too long. Sordid excess has it’s limits and in this case, clipping out about ten minutes of the film wouldn’t have hurt it at all.