Michael Bay takes a break from the high intensity, action genre to delve into a high intensity, comedy/crime drama genre.  Bay being Bay, cannot do anything small and quiet.  So a story that can be served well in a 2 hour, Dateline NBC show has become a super-pumped, super-charged, theatrically released flick that gives lots of laughs, shocks, and action.  “Pain & Gain” is based on a true story of bodybuilders in Florida who kidnap, torture, and kill people for money and property.

Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie portray the three criminal bodybuilders; and Tony Shalhoub plays their first victim.  Wahlberg, Johnson, and Mackie are big on muscles but are intellectual midgets.  Not able to gain wealth with their brains, they try to achieve it with their brawn.  Enter Shalhoub, who is a multi-millionaire entrepreneur whose personal trainer is Wahlberg.  Endless blabbing about how much money Shalhoub has to Wahlberg gives Wahlberg the idea that Shalhoub would be a good candidate for some forced, property exchange.

Wahlberg and his 2 bodybuilder friends soon have Shalhoub in their clutches, torturing him so that he would sign over all his property to his 3 kidnappers.  And here is where I stop describing what happens in “Pain & Gain,” because this movie has so many twists and turns and shocks that I don’t want to ruin any of it for you.  And yes, as crazy as this movie gets, most of what you’ll see is true.

You’ve heard of the saying “truth is stranger than fiction?”  For the most part, that’s bulls#@t.  Come on, what truth can compare with “Star Wars” or “The Lord of The Rings?”  But, with “Pain & Gain,” that saying is true.  Bay’s talents has turned a made-for-tv story into a mesmerizing train wreck that is impossible to look away from.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Mackie and Johnson are at a strip club.  While Johnson is focused on the strippers, Mackie keeps pestering Johnson about mixing breast milk with steroids to get bigger; and how Mackie’s breast milk source is clean, and how Mackie wants to get so big he has to walk through doors sideways.  Mackie’s more obsessed with being muscular than the Bubba character was obsessed with shrimp in “Forrest Gump.”

Coming in first place for my most memorable, movie moment of “Pain & Gain” is the scene when Johnson was grilling the fingerprints off the severed hands of his victims…while he was outside and waving to a neighbor.  At the bottom of the screen the words “this is still a true story” appear!

Oh, boy.  Bay got some flack for making the true-life criminals into likeable goofs who just want to get a bigger piece of the American Dream.  I can understand how someone — especially families of the victims — would be upset by this.  But keep in mind that this isn’t a history lesson; that movies are always subject to the interpretations of the writer, director, producer, lead actors, so on and so forth.   And yes, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I liked the Wahlberg and Johnson characters.  And I sure as hell like this movie!

–M

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