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Johnson stands out in overblown 'Pain & Gain' On Demand

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Pain & Gain

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Three musclebound lunkheads try to make a big score in the noisy Michael Bay directed action-comedy "Pain & Gain" currently available through Roanoke Cox Cable's Epix On DEMAND. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a fast-talking fitness instructor who finds a sense of entitlement and a delusional belief in his abilities to advance himself after attending a Johnny Wu (the ubiquitous Ken Jeong) self-improvement seminar. He hatches a scheme to defraud a rich jerk named Victor Kershaw ("Monk's" Tony Shaloub) and to literally steal his entire life. He enlists the aid of a muscle mass obsessed and brainless co-worker (Anthony Mackie) and a born again ex-con ex-junkie (Dwayne Johnson). Things go very violently wrong in this unbelievable yet true story.

The story goes so far to the point of ridiculous unbelievability that a title even comes up late in the movie reiterating that "yes, this is still true." Bay would have been better off taking a simple approach to his already insanely pumped-up tale. Instead he pumps it up even further with his characteristic loud in-your-face big budget action movie style. It's further ill served with an uneven tone that goes from light comedic moments to action too dark to laugh at and ultimately vicious violence and murder with nothing whatsoever funny about them.

The movie's brightest spot is Dwayne Johnson's standout performance. It is his most nuanced and unexpected to date. He is funny and sympathetic as he absurdly struggles to maintain his morality and religious faith while he does some very bad things and sinks to his lowest point ever. It's an amusing performance well worth a look in a movie that otherwise overwhelms a compelling story with excessive filmmaking.

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