Much Pain and Little Gain in Bay’s New Flick

Mark Wahlberg stars with Tony Shaloub, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson in “Pain and Gain,” based on a true story.
Mark Wahlberg stars with Tony Shaloub, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson in “Pain and Gain,” based on a true story.


Once in a while, a director makes a movie around a singular idea. The 1930s serials done with a big budget became the Indiana Jones films. High-tech action in Alice in Wonderland – “The Matrix.” And now director Michael Bay has made a new film around one singular idea: “Hey guys, I bought a GoPro.”*

“Pain and Gain” is the true story of a group of body builders who hatch a kidnapping and extortion scheme to rob a millionaire of everything he has by torturing him into signing away all his assets, document by document, in mid-1990s Miami. The nice cars, the nice house, the nice women – they now have it all. But it comes crashing down when they try to take more. Pulling a second job doesn’t go as smoothly as the first and they are in hot water.

That’s really all that seems to matter in this movie. Everything else, in typical Michael Bay fashion, is very disorganized and disjointed. Instead of any expository dialogue or scene or thought invested in the writing, the film is explained with voice-overs throughout. Not as an intro and closer, but for the whole film. There are film noir style voice-overs the whole time.

And to make matters worse, the quality of the film keeps changing. The GoPro Hero camera is a miracle of modern technology. Eleven megapixels and glorious 1080p footage from a camera that is smaller than a cat’s head. In addition to being affordable, it is small and durable enough to be used in just about any situation with the arsenal of suction cup and strap mounts in the line of GoPro equipment. It makes action shots look great when strapped on to a sky diver, motorcyclist or athlete. With a fish eye lens and no built-in monitor to see what you are filming, the camera is designed to get as much in its field of vision as possible and to keep it all in focus.

This is why I mentioned the changing quality of the film. The majority of the film is shot with a regular camera, good picture quality, shallow depth of field (the actors are in sharp focus but the background is slightly blurred, calling all focus to be on the actor – the way all professional films are shot). But every once in a while, the footage changes and it looks like a high school kid’s skateboarding video. It is nice for an effect, but it was excessive in this film. When it first came up on screen, anyone who has seen GoPro footage knew what camera it was from. One shot here or there wouldn’t be terrible, a nice little experiment to see how the GoPro holds up on the big screen, but Bay used it a lot. A lot. Not thinking it was going to be overused, I didn’t keep count of how many individual shots there were on a GoPro, but I should have.

The acting was great, no complaints about any of the seasoned actors tjat include Mark Wahlberg, Tony Shaloub, Anthony Mackie or Dwayne Johnson. They were all just right in their roles, really making the audience feel the guilt and struggle of these people who went through this situation.

The effects were all right, nothing to write home about. The movie just felt disjointed. It seemed like it was all focused around the one idea – Michael Bay bought a GoPro and grabbed the first script that crossed his desk as an excuse to go play with his new toy.

Rated R, I give this movie 1 out of 5 stars. And that one star is for the actors only.

*A GoPro is an action camera.

  • I completely agree. Well I thought the film was a little more enjoyable, the GoPro stuff was certainly overdone.