Pain & Gain


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A trio of bodybuilders in Florida get caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong.

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Director: Michael Bay

Writer[s]: Christopher Markus [screenplay], Stephen McFeely [screenplay], Pete Collins [articles that provided basis for film]

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub

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Pain & Gain is a blast to the past, taking us to the vibrant, colorful, muscular times of 90’s California muscle beaches. I’m sure they were great times, I certainly had some good ones as a four/five year old. With steroids all over the place, muscle-heads could be found left and right. And such are our protagonists, each in desperate need of some hard cash: Walhberg’s Daniel Lugo and his desire to be greater and do greater things; Johnson’s Paul Doyle struggling to adapt to life after prison and addiction; Mackie’s Adrian needing surgery for over-use of steroids and the loss of his manhood. They find this source in the shape of a billionaire asshole, Shalhoub’s Victor Kershaw. With their combined knowledge and skills, the trio of muscle men decide to kidnap and rob Kershaw of all he’s worth.

The beginning of the film is a very strange mix of tone and content. The direction makes it out to be something of a political epic, a story of true heroes, kings, and saints. Heavy tones, dramatic monologues speaking of self-improvement and entitlement, and a man on a true mission. But at the same time, we’re talking about personal trainers with little to no schooling with simple problems that loads of people face. I loved it. The rest of the film carries a similar contradictory tone, but not as well as the first fifteen minutes. It’s the source of a lot of funny material. It’s a weird genre clash in production that is original to me.

I’m not sure that it’s a successful idea, however.

Sure, there’s some laughs, but the film isn’t a comedy. It’s put together like a crime drama, but the characters are designed for comedy. I personally find some enjoyment in it all, but I can’t think that this is an entertaining creation for John Doe. Another deterrent to entertainment comes in the form of deja vu, when the gang decides to strike again after they run too quickly through their riches. It drags and gets over-saturated in drama and over-the-top tide-turners.

The performances match the great casting, everyone fitting their roles perfectly. Even Dwayne Johnson pulls off the 300 pound bodybuilder Jesus freak. Also in the film are Ed Harris as a retired cop/detective, Rebel Wilson as a hospital assistant and Adrian’s new love interest, Rob Coddry as the owner of the gym Daniel works at, and Ken Jeong as the motivational speaker who inspires Daniel to change his life.

My Rating

2/4 – An interesting creation, combining comedic characters and a crime drama story and production, Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain is a unique, but doesn’t quite work with a story that drags and repeats.

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