Set in 1994 and based on the true story (and, they really mean true
story because the victim is super upset they made a movie about the
crime and how the film has a slightly more comical tone than the
torture and theft he remembers), Mark “Don’t Call Me Marky
Mark” Wahlberg stars as Danny Lugo – a troubled young guy
who feels he deserves more in life.
Meandering around from idea to idea, Danny is an ex-con, but has found
the perfect job as a trainer at a Miami gym. He has some marketing
skills, and increases the gym’s membership both in total number
of members and quality of members. However, Danny wants more.
He has buddied up to Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), who is a very
successful businessman, and a big time horrible prick of a human being.
Danny thinks he has an amazing plan to get rich, but it is quite
illegal. He wants to kidnap Victor and force the guy to sign over all
of his possession and bank accounts. Danny calls it a plan to achieve
success. The law calls it kidnapping and extortion.
To enact the caper, Danny brings on fellow ex-con and newly reborn body
builder Paul Doyle (Dwayne “Don’t Call Me The Rock”
Johnson) and another gym rat who idolizes Danny, Adrian Doorbal
(Anthony “Call Me Anything You Want, I Am Working And
Of course, these three dudes are not exactly charter members of Mensa,
so we have to wonder if they can pull it off, and do they have a plan
for when they do.
Pain and Gain is full of great performances,
and, sometimes, is amazingly compelling. However, director Michael Bay
has troubles with the film’s tone, almost getting too comical for
the very serious nature of story.
If it was an outright, complete farce, Pain and Gain would be
hilarious. Danny and the gang’s antics are supremely stupid and
outrageous for their imbecilic nature. Wahlberg is perfect as the man
who thinks he is much more intelligent than he really is, and his
reactions to the mistakes and bumbling these guys make are legendary.
It’s just another amazing performance from an actor who has grown
to the point where he is the best thing in any movie in which he stars,
and shows he can stand with any big named star on the planet.
As a dark comedy full of drama, Bay really makes Pain and Gain
soar. Most of this comes from Johnson as we see the painful conflict he
faces as his newfound religious beliefs clash horribly with his
participation in this dastardly plot, and a return to past illegal and
self destructive behavior. And Shalhoub is perfect as, in the words of
writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the most unlikable
victim ever. Even I wanted to punch this guy.
However, Pain and Gain is kind of caught in a strange place
where the two parts don’t add up well. We swing a bit too much
between the two, as if Bay recognizes the comic nature of some scenes
and goes for it, then sees the dramatic moments in others, and goes for
that, without ever tailoring each moment to fit the overall picture.
Combine that problem with a lull in the middle of Pain and Gain
that makes you start losing interest. The movie is still good enough to
see, but not really a must see.
Pain and Gain is rated R for bloody violence,
crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use.