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'Pain & Gain' painfully fun

Published on -4/30/2013, 7:26 AM

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Whether we admit it or not, conflict is one of the best catalysts for growth. That's why phrases like "If there's no pain, there's no gain" and "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" are so ubiquitous in our culture.

From a storytelling point of view, conflict is absolutely essential to drama. The upside is the conflict usually is resolved by the hero, and everyone lives happily ever after. That is certainly not the case in director Michael Bay's latest film "Pain & Gain," which tells the unfortunate true story of three personal trainers in Miami who kidnap and extort a wealthy business owner.

Movies that focus on criminals as the apparent protagonists are not a new phenomenon. Heist movies involve illegal activity but the perpetrators are usually intelligent, sly and likable with partially commendable motives. The anti-heroes of "Pain & Gain" are unenlightened morons who are stumbling through a poor plan of action in pursuit of their perversion of the American Dream. I enjoyed this film -- I'm just not 100 percent certain this is something that should be enjoyed.

"Pain & Gain" has funny moments and some dynamic action, but the thing Michael Bay is really known for is eye candy, which is present in spades. Bay has an undeniably unique style that treats everything as if it's on a pedestal -- women, cars, biceps, money, drugs and weapons to name just a few.

Aside from my misgivings about why a film like this entertains us, I was not personally offended by "Pain & Gain." That being said, I'm not easily offended. This film deserves every inch of it's "R" rating, and I have a hard time recommending it. Fans of raunchy, just-for-fun entertainment will find some laughs in the end, but for me, the journey is more important than the destination.

4 out of 6 stars

James Gerstner works at the Fort Hays State University Foundation and is the founder and editor of Six Horizons Media at sixhorizons.com. Contact James at james@sixhorizons.com, @sixhorizons on Twitter, Facebook.com/sixhorizons.

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