Pain & Gain screened after WW deadlines, but Michael Nordine did his critic's duty. Expecting a great deal of pain and awfully little gain, he was pleasantly surprised.

Critic's Grade: B-

Tooth Fairy
Tooth Fairy
Pain & Gain

Johnson plays Paul Doyle, an accomplice of Lugo's. Doyle is a mostly gentle giant who gets in over his head, but he remains the closest thing the film has to a moral compass. Lugo (whose narrated manifesto includes lines like “The way to prove yourself is to better yourself—that’s the American dream”) decides to be a “doer” after attending a self-improvement seminar. That in mind, he launches a plot to part a wealthy client (Shalhoub) from his considerable fortune. The ensuing hijinks feature all the slow-mo, violence, bottle-blondes and casual homophobia we’ve come, resentfully, to expect from Bay. What’s unexpected, however, is that Pain & Gain still occasionally manages to transcend the mindless, bringing to mind the much more nuanced Bernie in its examination of outwardly likable villains and what the private investigator played by Harris would call “very difficult victims.” People don’t much care when bad things happen to bad people.

Bay’s evocation of all that’s wrong with his antiheroes' American Dream could hardly be spelled out more clearly, but how many of his films can be said to rest upon an ideological foundation of any kind? Pain & Gain tells a story so perfectly suited to its director's music-video aesthetic that it almost seems immaterial whether said filmmaker knows (or cares) that he’s part of the surface-level pursuits his film both glamorizes and laments.