Pain & Gain Review
By Rich Cline
Spirited and very funny, this movie should actually be rather disturbing since it's a true story about torture and murder. But director Michael Bay is so slick with the action and comedy elements that he lulls audiences to sleep, entertaining us with events that really should send chills down our spines. So the movie feels rather tasteless when you begin to think about it.
Wahlberg stars as Daniel, an obsessive bodybuilder in 1990s Miami who works as a personal trainer at a local gym. But he's becoming increasingly annoyed by the fact that his clients are much wealthier than he is. So he convinces his steroid-addicted colleague Adrian (Mackie) to help him kidnap a customer (Shalhoub) and steal his fortune. Realising that they need some help, they enlist born-again ex-con Paul (Johnson) in their plan. But none of them is very smart, and the kidnapping goes badly wrong from the start. Still, they manage to steal quite a lot before a tenacious private detective (Harris) notices something isn't right.
For a story that deals with such intensely serious themes, this is an oddly broad comedy. Bay never even tries to find dark irony here; he just focusses on how stupid these criminals are, convinced that they are as cool as the characters from their favourite movies and eerily unbothered by the fact that they are inflicting pain and even death on people for their own greedy ends. The actors inhabit the roles with a disarming naivete, so we can't help but laugh at their idiotic actions. Wahlberg plays Daniel as a muscle-head so focussed on getting what he wants that he doesn't notice the carnage in his wake; Mackie at least gives Adrian a sense of self-doubt, plus some comical romance (with scene-stealer Wilson); and Johnson has a tricky role as a religious guy with a weakness for drugs and women.
But the fact remains that these are not actually nice men. And the film goes even further, turning Shalhoub's victim into the least likeable person on screen. Meanwhile, Bay is unable to resist cranking up the action to include car chases and explosions, plus some very grisly violence. He is obviously uninterested in the real events or the actual victims; he just wants to entertain his audience. And the film is a lot of fun to watch. But the lack of perspective will eat away at more discerning viewers.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 26th April 2013
Distributed by: Paramount Studios
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures, De Line Pictures
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 90 Rotten: 91
Cast & Crew
Starring: Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo, Dwayne Johnson as Paul Doyle, Anthony Mackie as Adrian Doorbal, Tony Shalhoub as Victor Kershaw, Ed Harris as Ed DuBois, Rob Corddry as John Mese, Bar Paly as Sorina Luminita, Rebel Wilson as Ramona Eldridge, Ken Jeong as Johnny Wu, Michael Rispoli as Frank Griga, Keili Lefkovitz as Krisztina Furton, Vivi Pineda as Detective Haworth, Christopher Jestin Langstaff as Nine-Year-Old Boy/Rusty, Gustavo Quiroz Jr. as Son of Victor Kershaw, Corinne Ferrer as Basketball Girl, Zack Moore as Young Daniel Lugo, Kory Getman as Teenage Daniel Lugo, Peter Stormare as Dr. Bjornson, Larry Hankin as Pastor Randy, Tony Plana as Captain Lopez, Peter Stormare as Dr. Bjornson, Brian Stepanek as Brad McCalister, Persei Caputo as Judy, Bill Kelly as Jim, Emily Rutherfurd as Carolyn 'Sissy' Du Bois, Wladimir Klitschko as Client