Pain and Gain: Film Review

Pain & Gain is the story of staggeringly delusional musclehead Daniel Lugo, a fitness fanatic and personal trainer in Miami who comes up with a plan to kidnap a local business man and extort from him every single penny and asset he owns. 

The plan is full of holes, his accomplices are stupider than he is and the group do entirely the wrong thing at literally every single turn. Pain & Gain is also based on a true story.

“True Story” might be stretching it slightly. Let’s say it’s been based on a true story by people who make movies for a living, and leave it at that. 

Mark Wahlberg plays Lugo, a vigorous if na├»ve go-getter who believes that if you work hard enough and believe hard enough you can achieve anything you want. He’s a sucker for Self Help systems and any and all inspirational slogans, and at one point early on he attends the seminar of motivational speaker Johnny Wu (played by Ken Jeong, a man so omnipresent he’s been in more films than the Universal logo) and takes on the concept of being a Doer rather than a Don’ter.

Later he meets douchebag millionaire Victor Kershaw (played by Tony Shalhoub from ‘Monk’) and, along with easily led friend Adrian (Hurt Locker’s Anthony Mackie) and big giant Jesus loving rube Paul (The Rock no less) puts a thoroughly idiotic plan into action to get everything Kershaw has. Not just so they can have it, but so Kershaw doesn’t have it.

Despite being a full-tilt dumbass, Lugo is easily able to manipulate Adrian and Paul, as well as a stripper called Sorina (Bar Paly, from… well just from this really) into continuing with his idiotic scheme well past the point of no return. The “Sun Gym Gang” do absolutely everything wrong, from allowing Kershaw to learn who they are right down to moving into the man’s house, but manage to avoid detection for a staggering amount of time.

It’s not as action packed as the trailer seems to want you to think it is, and the movie’s main focus is actually the characters of Lugo, Adrian and Paul. The performances are excellent across the board, with special mention going to The Rock who portrays the conflicted gullible Paul Doyle (who doesn’t actually exist) with real charm, making him the most loveable character despite his actions. Wahlberg and Mackie are always great, with Markie Mark’s instinctive comic timing improving on a movie to movie basis. Ed Harris rounds out the cast as private detective Ed Du Bois III, a genuinely imposing man who I would gladly watch an entire movie based around.

This real life crime story is somehow a Michael Bay movie, and is the best thing he’s done since Bad Boys. And that includes Bad Boys II. There are many of the usual Bay hallmarks, including the aforementioned stripper and several scenes taking place in or around bare ladies, but they’re done in such an unBay like fashion that I didn’t realise it was his movie until the man’s name came up in the credits.

Pain & Gain is very funny, very engaging (if, like all modern films, a bit too long) and made all the more interesting by the fact that it’s a (mostly) true story. It also holds the distinction of being the only time in recorded history that a character in a Michael Bay movie has acknowledged an explosion.

4 out of 5

Words by Gazz Wood