Pain for vic­tims, Gain for Hol­ly­wood

Michael Bay uses hu­mour to tell a crime story, writes Rene Ro­driguez

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAYCONTENTS -

MICHAEL Bay, di­rec­tor of the block­buster Trans­form­ers tril­ogy and other huge hits, smiles when you tell him Pain and Gain – his self-de­scribed ‘‘small movie’’, made on a bud­get of $28.4 mil­lion and shot en­tirely in Mi­ami – is one of the odd­est films to come out of Hol­ly­wood in years. ‘‘This is a weird movie,’’ Bay says. ‘‘This is not the kind of movie the stu­dios green­light much any­more.

‘‘I wanted to do some­thing small and quirky. But be­cause I’ve made Para­mount (Pic­tures) bil­lions of dollars with the Trans­form­ers movies, I told them, ‘I’m go­ing to make this movie’.

‘‘They said, ‘Why do you want to make it?’ They were scared of it. But I saw some­thing unique in this ma­te­rial.

‘‘The best com­pli­ment I’ve heard from au­di­ences who have seen it is ‘wow, that was re­ally dif­fer­ent’, which is cool.’’

Pain and Gain is cer­tainly dif­fer­ent from any­thing Bay has di­rected be­fore. It is char­ac­ter-based and per­for­mancedriven, with only one brief ac­tion se­quence and, most shock­ing of all, just a sin­gle, rather puny ex­plo­sion. In Pain and Gain, the story is wild enough to elim­i­nate the need for py­rotech­nics.

Based on an epic three-part story by Pete Collins pub­lished in the Mi­ami New Times in 1999 and 2000, Pain and Gain cen­tres on three body­builders – Daniel Lugo, Paul Doyle and Adrian Door­bal – who em­barked on a crime wave in 1994 in­volv­ing fraud, theft, kid­nap­ping, tor­ture and mur­der.

The sprawl­ing case got weirder and stranger as it un­folded, cul­mi­nat­ing in a grisly act of dis­mem­ber­ment by chain­saw and hand axe.

There were too many peo­ple in­volved in the case to squeeze into a sin­gle movie, so screen­writ­ers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who pre­vi­ously col­lab­o­rated on Cap­tain Amer­ica: The First Avenger, had to con­dense and sim­plify the story, cut some char­ac­ters (Lugo had a wife and an ex-wife with four adopted chil­dren) and turn oth­ers into com­pos­ites.

In the hands of Martin Scors­ese or Michael Mann, the script for Pain and Gain might have re­sulted in a bloody crime saga, a la Good­fel­las or Heat.

But Bay read the screen­play and saw some­thing dif­fer­ent: A pitch-black com­edy about the Amer­i­can Dream, with a body count.

‘‘When I read the ar­ti­cle, the story was so ab­surd that it laid out com­i­cal,’’ he says.

‘‘When you try to use a chain­saw on some­one’s head to dis­pose of a body, and it doesn’t work, so you take it back to Home De­pot with hu­man hair on it – it’s so bizarre that it’s funny. It’s like those videos of dumb crim­i­nals do­ing re­ally stupid things that get mil­lions of hits on YouTube.’’

Some of the sur­vivors of the mur­der vic­tims and law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials have been dis­mayed by the trail­ers for Pain and Gain, which are overtly com­i­cal and don’t re­ally hint at the dark­ness of the story.

‘‘What Hol­ly­wood is go­ing to do, Hol­ly­wood is go­ing to do,’’ Mi­ami-Dade State At­tor­ney Kather­ine Fer­nan­dez Run­dle says.

‘‘My thoughts are with the vic­tims. To triv­i­alise this hor­ri­ble tale of tor­ture and death makes a mock­ery out of their lives and the jus­tice sys­tem.’’

Bay ar­gues that all the laughs in the film come at the ex­pense of the three roided-out killers, never the vic­tims.

‘‘I’ve heard fam­ily mem­bers say they feel like we’re mak­ing fun, but we’re not mak­ing fun,’’ Bay says.

‘‘You can’t judge the movie based on a trailer or a TV ad. It’s a story about delu­sional crim­i­nals who can tor­ture a guy they’ve kid­napped one day and have a lovely wed­ding the next day.

‘‘We’re not re­ally go­ing into the vic­tims. It’s not about them. It’s a story told through the minds of the crim­i­nals and the de­tec­tives, and th­ese guys got ex­actly what they de­served.’’

Mark Wahlberg, who plays group leader Lugo, agrees it is the over-the-top na­ture of the story that gives the film its hu­mor­ous tone, such as a scene in which Lugo dons a ‘‘Kiss the Cook’’ apron to pro­tect him­self from blood splat­ters while dis­patch­ing a body.

‘‘I knew how out­ra­geous it all was, and I find a lot of hu­mour in things that are ridicu­lous,’’ Wahlberg says.

‘‘But we never played it for the com­edy. I al­ways played it as real as pos­si­ble. But we were also try­ing to push the en­ve­lope, and a lot of the hu­mour comes from that.’’

Pain and Gain opens to­day.

Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo in di­rec­tor Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain.

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