This is a conjoined review of both Pain & Gain and The World’s End
Two films that amalgamate genres and are headlined by what could be some of the biggest douchebags ever to grace characterisation and narrative. Only one gets it right.
The World’s End begins with Simon Pegg, describing what he believes to be the absolute greatest night of his life, a pub crawl with friends and a viewing of the morning sunrise.
Pain & Gain begins with Marky Mark Wahlberg, describing what he believes to be the ultimate American dream and his idea of a perfect life, to be rich, surrounded by women and endless materialism.
The two films are very different, but their protagonists, not so much. One wants to be rich and successful without working for it whilst the other wants to recapture a perfect night with friends without earning the respect of his best friend whom he screwed over many years ago. Both rely on avoiding confrontation to get what they want.
We’re asked of both films to invest in two of the most degenerate characters to grace cinema screens this year. So, what works and what doesn’t?
In Pain & Gain, Michael Bay relies on a number of different voices to narrate this “true story”, so from the beginning we know it’s not entirely a one-person perspective piece. We’re told this mildly interesting story through a series of narration voiced by different characters. But it doesn’t really matter what the story is for amidst it all, Bay decides to triumph the nasty nature of our imbecile protagonists by laughing and insulting people who are overweight, have acne, are flamboyant, homosexual and as always, women.
Could it be that everyone in the film is a douchebag and that this story can only be told from a nasty and judgmental perspective? Almost. Ed Harris is in fact terrific as the film’s detective assigned to the case, and he’s a normal, kind human being. However,he’s a gem among the very ugly souls. One scene in particular shows Tony Shaloub’s character, Victor Kershaw directly insulting an overweight woman and a young man with acne. The film’s first 25 minutes establish his character to be a bragging ass who insults people. Why include this scene? That same overweight young woman is seen almost an hour after and once again, another joke is used at her expense, a much smaller one but it’s still evident. And that’s only the beginning.
The World’s End has one character, an eccentric old man who sits at the bar drinking from funny shaped straws and speaks of encounters with aliens. In no way, the other characters in the film mention only talking to him to begin with due to feeling sorry for him whereas our douchebag lead praises him as a legend in a non condescending way.
The very difference between the two films is the film surrounding said douchebag protagonist, one joins in said douchery and essentially defy’s the protagonist in passing judgement whereas the other film emphasises a character who is not privy to consequence or of other people’s feelings, but in no way does the film glorify or match said behaviour.
Pain & Gain laughs at anyone it can and passes it off as idiots fighting for a perception of the American dream. It is almost unaware that the story’s written as a satire, the nastiness of these characters is used for humour.
The World’s End is a satire on genre which is an ultimately sad tale of doing anything imaginable to recapture a time lost. The humour, the fun, emerges from situations in which our douchebag lands them and us in. No sacrifice of dignity required.
In Pain & Gain, a young woman with an accent is passed along from Wahlberg to Dwayne Johnson, because Wahlberg got sick of her. And that’s meant to be funny, that someone would so willingly be passed along like an item.
In The World’s End, Rosamund Pike’s character is a mature and grounded human being who when sleazy advances are made in her general direction, rejects them, for, you know she is a human being.
The constant comparisons are only to remind you and I that any narrative that’s driven by an unlike able degenerate is one that’s challenging us to begin with, so it’s our duty to determine which way it’s done correctly or otherwise.
I am not an expert on unlikable douchebag characters, but I do know the feeling of sitting through a film that’s laughing at people for our amusement and amongst it all you’re stuck with dealing with unsavory people you’d not think to glance at in the street. It’s 129 minutes of this and Michael Bay’s still pointing and laughing.
And just one last thing, to well and truly clarify the difference between a film truly understanding how awful their protagonists are or can be
The World’s End has Pegg, our unpleasant protagonist begging and tearing up with the camera above him. Because such behaviour doesn’t even need condemnation, it has its own pitfall’s and self-destruction that comes along with it and never for any second is it funny or cool.
Pain & Gain has a point where Wahlberg’s character in the ugliest and most shameful of conditions. However despite this, he’s shot from a low angle in slow motion whereby making him look cool and tough, This angle hardly ever changes! Why? Remember, this isn’t a perception of how he perceives himself; it’s done so because it’s cool, right?
Pain & Gain: 1/5
The World’s End: 4.5/5
By Chris Elena