Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pain & Gain

"Pain & Gain" is a comedy, folks. A Michael Bay comedy. And believe it or not, it's funny, sometimes very funny. Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo, a Miami personal trainer with dollar signs in his eyes who puts together a ragtag crew of dim-bulb criminals (Dwayne Johnson as an ex-con who found Jesus in stir and, from "Night Catches Us," Anthony Mackie as a juicehead who's sacrificed his family jewels at the altar of anabolic steroids) to kidnap the ultimate wrong guy, one of Lugo's clients, a seemingly unbreakable Colombian deli owner with the great movie name of Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub).

These guys can't do anything right, and some of the pickles they get into, and much of their dialogue - both internal and external - are highly amusing. (One wants to take his fiancée honeymooning "in Paris, or France.") But it takes writing at the genius level of "Cheers" and "The Golden Girls" to make "dumb" characters like Woody Boyd and Rose Nylund consistently hilarious, to add the layers of shading that elevate them above Johnny One Note. Bay's scribes, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, aren't in that rarefied air, and the film - bloated to over two hours - loses control of its violence as surely as do its protagonists. But the carnage, however redundant, is always watchable and is often presented with unexpected panache. I hope Bay will take on more passion projects like "Pain & Gain." Though it may be damning with faint praise, this is his most entertaining film by a mile.

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