PAIN AND GAIN (15)
FOR THE first 15 minutes of this film, I was quite hopeful Michael Bay had finally managed to make a film which was well balanced, tempered, thoughtful and thought provoking. Well, that illusion didn't last long.
Any film which is touted as a comedy, yet is based on a true life story of a brutal gang of body builders, who killed, injured, tortured and maimed various victims in the 1990s, has to get the delicate balance of humour — and reverence to the family members of the victims, who might not think the story so funny — absolutely right or this project would be a train wreck of magnificent proportions.
Unfortunately, in the hands of the not so subtle director Michael Bay (Pearl Harbour, Transformers), the balance is missed by a mile, and the result has to be a strong contender for one of the most distasteful films of the year, if not the decade.
Chasing the American Dream are bodybuilders Danny Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie), personal trainers who lived in Miami and who decided the only way to achieve that American Dream was to steal it from some other American who had already achieved it.
Watching the rich and affluent working out in the gym every day, Danny hatches a plan to kidnap one of them, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), and using various methods of identity fraud, steal his millions.
Unfortunately, Victor recognises Danny at a very early stage in proceedings, and the plan, already half baked, becomes even more ridiculous, as the gang try various methods of torture to elicit the money and eventually attempt to rid themselves of the suspect by setting fire to him, crashing his car with him in it, and, when that doesn't work, running him over in a truck. Several times.
All of this is presented with an attempt at comedy, admittedly very black, but the fact this is a true story makes it not very funny to start with.
And the bumbling efforts of the gang as they continue their money-making venture with new victims, (shooting, hacking off body parts and barbequing them to get rid of the evidence) is not only insane, but when you try to raise a laugh out of it, it's just sick.
The script, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is based on a series of articles by Pete Collins which were published in the Miami New Times and told the story of the Sun Gym Gang.
Had this story been told as a thriller/ documentary it would have made interesting fodder and could have been a promising film, but Bay's cynicism and inability to show any reverence to the real life horror whichmust have been involved in these crimes, turns the film into a complete mess, with good actors struggling to know how to play their roles (it's hard to play cutting up a body with a chainsaw for laughs) and added to this is Bay's obsession with treating women on film as having no brain and only being useful for sexual gratification.
Cruel and discriminatory jokes abound to add to the distaste — Bay's attempts at humour are just not funny to anyone who has an ounce of sensitivity.
The only positive I can pull out of this farce, is the performance by Dwayne Johnson who seems to be improving with each film he makes.
As the ex con, reluctant to take part in proceedings, but dumb enough to go along with it, he manages to be the only one who shows any form of sensitivity to the subject matter.
All in all, it is crass, vulgar, and a cheap shot, and doesn't deserve your admission money.