'Pain & Gain' TV Spots and Poster: Michael Bay Is Saying Something

Wednesday, 03 April 2013 14:46 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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'Pain & Gain' TV Spots and Poster: Michael Bay Is Saying Something

A pair of new TV spots and a poster promoting Pain & Gain don't just suggest that this is the rare Michael Bay picture with a theme. 

They proclaim it.  They scream that though there will most assuredly be Bay standbys (from here on out, let's call them "standbays," okay?) like scantily clad supermodels, copious gunfire, fast cars, happily regressive sexual politics, and merrily juvenile humor, Pain & Gain is also some sort of populist commentary on the the current state of the economy.

The picture, based on a true story cataloged by Pete Collins in series of articles that first appeared in the Miami New Times, takes place in the 1990s.  Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a bodybuilder who teams up with a fellow Sun Gym trainer (Anthony Mackie) and an ex-convict (Dwayne Johnson) to kidnap and extort a wealthy jackass (Tony Shalhoub).  Much violence and ridiculousness ensues.

Nineties setting notwithstanding, these two commercials tap into the current zeitgeisty sense of discontent at economic inequality.  Yes, there are standbays aplenty, but there's also Lugo declaring, "We're being kept down by people who cheated to get where they are," positioning his whole scheme as a working man's quest.

The last Pain & Gain red band trailer gave the impression that somehow, between Transformers movies, Bay grew a playful sense of self awareness.*  Does his first out-and-out comedy also find our foremost purveyor of explosions experimenting with subtext and theme for the first time?  Check out the TV spots and see what you think:

Bay is definitely trying to say something here, right?  He's making a statement about the nation.  Perhaps not with subtlety, but a statement is still being made.  Here, for example, are our heroes – criminals all – strutting in front of an American flag:


American flag = Meaning.

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