Never before have I seen Mark Wahlberg look completely emasculated by anyone, until I see Michael Bay’s new film, Pain & Gain! From a first impression, Pain & Gain may only seem like a movie about bodybuilders. Look a bit closer and you might think it’s about bodybuilders who kidnap a man and steal his money. If you see the movie, you’ll learn that it is about so much more than all of that. It may be one of the weirdest and most unbelievable stories that I’ve ever seen/heard.
The first shot of the film opens with Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) doing sit-ups, upside down, as he describes in a voice-over what the American dream is all about. We then hear police sirens and a wave of panic takes over Lugo’s body. He immediately begins to run away until he’s finally hit by a police car. After that collision, we are taken back in time to see a bored and lonesome Lugo who is living an empty life as a trainer at Sun Gym. He lives out a daily routine and speaks on how he wishes he had more in his life. His boss (Rob Corddry) allows him to add a bit more flair to the gym, but only after Lugo has come into a bit more cash. How does he get that cash? Well, he begins talking with Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) about wanting more in life and how they both should go out and get what they want. It’s clear that Lugo is being influenced by others, as we see him listening eagerly to a speech by Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong). Basically, Wu says “Don’t be a don’ter. DO, be a DO’er”! That one phrase was enough for Lugo to formulate a plan to steal from an ultra-wealthy trainee of his, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub). Unfortunately, Lugo and Adrian might night be enough muscle to take care of this job. So, what do they do?
Naturally, they seek out the aid of Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), a recently released convict who has found freedom in religion. The three concoct a plan to abduct Kershaw and get him to sign over all his money. That would have been fine, if they didn’t have to torture and nearly kill Kershaw to get his signature. As the three bodybuilders begin living a lavish lifestyle, Kershaw gets the help of Private Detective Ed DuBois (Ed Harris) to find the men who stole from him. In-between their theft and their arrests, the Sun Gym Gang (as they were called) committed murder, partied with naked women, took Kershaw’s house, became failed businessmen and even grilled a hand… Pain & Gain was a weird film to watch. It’s not that what you saw was shocking, but it’s the fact that what you saw actually happened, that gets you. You see everything from a sextoy warehouse full of things I don’t even want to recall, to these three men trying to discard bodies after removing all traceable aspects. In the film, Lugo reassured Doyle by telling him “I’ve watched a lot of movie, Paul. I know what I’m doing”. To his credit, Lugo probably did watch a lot of movies. Unfortunately for the dead bodies, those movies were all about gangsters and the mafia. What the bodybuilders do to these dead bodies is gross and really unexpected.
More than that, this “gang” was really, really stupid. Lugo moves into Kershaw’s house, Doyle gets back into doing drugs and Adrian marries Rebel Wilson (well, her name is Robin Peck, but it’s Rebel Wilson, playing Rebel Wilson). Along the way, they spends lots of time and money at strip-clubs and even convince a stripped that they’re secret agents. These men were highly irresponsible and did pretty much every bad thing you can think of. However, Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie have the best time doing these awful things. This may not be the best movie, but all three actors deliver awesome and fun performances. Now, onto Michael Bay. As most Directors do, Michael Bay has a specific style of shooting. He loves to objectify women, he loves to make things explode and he loves his sweeping shots. We get a lot of gratuitous shots of naked/scantily clad women and sweeping shots in this movie, but there are hardly any explosions. As misogynistic as Michael Bay is, this film was a match made in heaven for him. He got to do everything he is criticized for and it works, because the true story that this film is based on of is really that crazy! As the film will remind you from time-to-time (in moments when the film freezes and text pops up saying “THIS IS A TRUE STORY”), this is a true story. Before I saw this film, I went online and read the three-part article that this film is based one. The article, Pain & Gain: Parts 1,2 and 3, tells the incredibly awful and twisted story of these three bodybuilders. It’s a time-consuming three-part article, but it’s certainly one that will stick with you. The movie shows a lot of what actually happened, but certain events are left out because they’re beyond over-the-top. For me, I think that reading the article and then seeing the movie made me enjoy Pain & Gain a bit more than everyone else did.
A lot of critics tore Pain & Gain apart and criticized Michael Bay for his poor storytelling skills. I will admit, the story does jump around often and most shots only last a minute or so. Regardless, I think Bay actually did a good job telling this story. As I said earlier, Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie had a lot of fun with the film and that makes it a bit more enjoyable. The film still suffers from being too long and too “all over the place”, but it does have some great moments. At the end of the day, Pain & Gain is a movie that you’re not likely to forget (which is good and bad) and is one that is certainly not for everyone. If you’re opposed to Michael Bay or are dissuaded from seeing the movie, I highly recommend you read the actual article!
Pain & Gain Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEQ8jyvmYtw