May 30, 2023
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Review: Screwball comedy falters with repetitious humor

Michael Bay’s newest comedic action flick may stray away from his “Transformers” franchise, but his attempt at comedic one-liners and hysterics come off as robotic. “Pain & Gain” pokes fun at the true story of a 1990s crime ring and retells the absurd kidnapping and extortion scheme made by a trio of bodybuilders pumped up on steroids.


Bay introduces audiences to the brain cell–deficient Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), who stirs up a plan to get rich quick. Lugo drafts a plot to kidnap and torture rich gym-goer Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) to sign over his finances. With the help of Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-criminal Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), Lugo bench presses Kershaw like he’s a heavyweight at the Sun Gym in Miami for his funds.


The casting for this film is spot-on, even if Wahlberg had to muscle up for the role. Wahlberg is able to capture his brainless character and the ludicrous ideas he conjures. Shalhoub excels in the role of the scrawny, weasel-like businessman who is intimidated and strong-armed by heavyweights like The Rock.


The film opens with a police chase scene fueled with chaos and crazy camera angles. As the trio swerves around the streets of Miami, the camera cuts between the police determined to catch the criminals and the bodybuilders who scramble to get away. In a quick jump, the movie backtracks to the beginning of the trio’s ridiculous events. The opening hectic scene sets the tone for the rest of the film and introduces the dimwitted antics of the characters.


Bay’s films are normally aesthetically pleasing with clever shots to create any setting, and “Pain & Gain” does just that. With scenic shots of tanning salons, palm trees and the sun shining over the beach, the wealth of Miami is both glamorized and exaggerated. Though the main protagonists might not have that wealth, the picturesque beauty of Florida seems to encourage them to pursue it.


The acting was solid, however the comedy in the script lacked the laughs. The many jokes about steroid use and its effect on the male organs were funny at the beginning, but the repetitious humor wore out.


The film attempts to mimic movies such as “The Hangover” with scenes of characters who are thrown into insane scenarios. However, the “Pain & Gain” plot is not as successful as the popular “Hangover” franchise. Bay even steals the famous Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). Jeong plays Johnny Wu, who inspires Lugo’s scheme to get rich, to try and add some more comedy.


Another famous face who contributes to the humor is the funny Rebel Wilson. Her romantic chemistry with Mackie’s character is unexpected but works as another absurd scenario in the film.


Script writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely might be the only two people who laugh at their own jokes while creating the screenplay. Though the characters were well cast and directed, the writing focused too much on the ill-humored jokes. Ultimately, the weak jokes made “Pain & Gain” just as painful as the trio’s torture.


Two and a half stars


Cheesy and weak jokes drag down humor in ‘Pain & Gain.’