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 Happy” Mackie).
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