Klavan On The Culture

Overlooked Entertainment: "Pain & Gain"

Fans of true crime movies ought to take a look at Michael Bay’s Pain & Gainnow streaming on Netflix. It only gets about a 50 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s way better than that. It’s about twenty minutes too long, I’ll admit, but it’s also funny, intelligent, insightful and really well acted by a fine cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub and especially Ed Harris.

The film is based on a real life kidnapping case — call it a cut-rate Fargo. It follows three body builders whose aspirational rah-rah can-do American-dream attitudes mask dysfunctional narcissism, selfishness and stupidity. It uses the story of their extraordinary crime to create a satire of self-help culture and entitlement culture. Ken Jeong does a hilarious few minutes as success guru Johnny Wu. He doesn’t know why God gave us ten fingers when we only need three to count the steps to success: Get a goal; get a plan; get up off your ass.

Michael Bay gets a lot of disrespect. Possibly this is because his characters believe in God and aren’t leftists. Just possibly. When he’s in his element — snark and action — he’s really good. This is a good, entertaining, interesting — and overlong — film.