“Pain & Gain” may look like your typical Michael Bay movie, but it’s actually much more.

Bay’s trademarks are there – the loud music, the slow-motion spin, the outlandish action moments. But this is also a movie with plenty of dark humor and a cast not afraid to be the butt of the joke.

It’s a trimmed-down piece from the man behind such bombastically over-the-top big-budget action films like “Pearl Harbor” and “Transformers.”

Well, it’s trimmed down by Bay’s standards.

Based on a true story, “Pain & Gain” is about three Florida bodybuilders – Daniel (Mark Wahlberg), Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) – who come up with a plot to kidnap and steal money from a wealthy businessman (Tony Shaloub).

The plan goes horribly wrong as they continue to bungle their way through the caper, with the businessman eventually coming back seeking revenge.

“Pain & Gain” sucks you in from the opening narrative and keeps you fascinated as you watch this train wreck of a crime caper.

The cast deserves credit for rolling with the punches, not afraid to look foolish on screen.

Wahlberg is good, even if he is essentially a variation on his Dirk Diggler character from “Boogie Nights.”

Johnson has the showier role, playing an ex-con who turns to religion – struggling to remain good as all the bad stuff piles up around him. Mackey and Ed Harris as a detective who helps the businessman are also good.

“Pain & Gain” does get rather preposterous, but it keeps reminding you that it’s a true story (well, most of it is true). That makes it easier to take, even when some of the situations seem completely unbelievable.

There are plenty of laughs between the bloodshed, enough to make “Pain & Gain” a pleasant surprise.

Opening this week

Making its way to Bowling Green this week after playing in larger markets is the latest from director Danny Boyle, “Trance” (B). This shifty little crime thriller keeps re-inventing itself with every plot twist.

The movie’s basic premise is rather catchy – an art auctioneer named Simon (James McAvoy) gets involved with some local thugs, assisting them in a heist of a painting.

When Simon is hit on the head during the job, he suffers memory loss and is unsure where he left the painting.

One of the thugs, Franck (Vincent Cassel), decides the best way to assist Simon is to send him to a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson).

As Elizabeth gets closer and closer to assisting Simon in finding the missing painting, further secrets start to arise – leaving Simon unsure if anyone is who he thinks they are, including himself.

Boyle won an Academy Award for “Slumdog Millionaire,” but I still contend “Trainspotting” is his best film.

“Trance” is more like “Trainspotting” than “Slumdog,” hitting the ground running with a fantastic heist sequence.

The movie gets more intriguing as the plot progresses, with characters and motivations spinning in opposite directions on a dime.

Boyle uses this to his advantage, creating a film that is constantly blurring the line between reality and fiction.

Yeah, it’s the kind of movie that when you think about it, you probably find a lot of holes and are probably left with plenty of questions.

But in the moment “Trance” does just that, it hypnotizes the audience with a clever slight of hand – a cinematic crime puzzle that proves to be quite entertaining.

“Trance” is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images, and language and opens Friday at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.

— To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.


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