starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris
screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, based on the articles by Pete Collins
directed by Michael Bay
by Angelo Muredda A man does a stomach crunch in mid-air, suspended off the armpit of a muscleman logo that's spray-painted onto the side of a gym. Is there a more quintessential Michael Bay image than the opening shot of Pain & Gain? The only serious contender comes later on, in a slow-motion tableau of the same bro, Mark Wahlberg's personal trainer-cum-murderer Danny Lugo, sailing over the windshield of an SUV, propelled by the debris from a flying fruit stand. When your story doesn't have any Autobots, I guess you just have to improvise with your surroundings to get all your primary colours in. To say that the radioactive pop palette and abs-fetishism is familiar is an understatement, but it's the thematic material and belaboured telling of it that makes Pain & Gain a perfect storm of Bay. Temporarily freed from the restraints of a battling-robot franchise, he's allowed to make his most purely ideological statement yet in the form of a (fact-based) story about three idiots pursuing their warped vision of the Horatio Alger myth--which happily coincidences with Bay's.