Pain and Gain’ is far from painful
Ordinarily, a movie in which the main characters torture and kill innocent people would not be very pleasant to watch. It would be even worse if such a film were based on a true story. But the real events depicted in “Pain and Gain” are so bizarre and unbelievable that you can’t help but find them humorous. Coupled with the sleek way Michael Bay tells the story and the excellent performances from his actors, the movie adds up to one highly enjoyable farce.
Based on the actual Sun Gym Gang, “Pain and Gain” follows bodybuilder Daniel Lugo as he pursues his version of the American Dream. Unfortunately, his idea of achieving success means stealing it from others and he and fellow gym rats Adrian Doorbal and Paul Doyle hatch a “brilliant” plan to kidnap rich low-life Victor Kershaw, torture him into signing away all his assets to them and then kill him. But Kershaw miraculously survives three murder attempts and gets free only to find no one believes his story. Meanwhile, the gang blows through their newfound wealth and targets another victim. It’s up to Kershaw’s private detective Ed Du Bois to put a stop to their plot before it’s too late.
On the surface, it might sound like the movie is glorifying convicted criminals; but the gang is never presented as admirable. Rather, Lugo and company are utterly stupid people who believe they’re smart. That’s why it is so funny watching one harebrained scheme after another fail, and even more so considering real people actually behaved this way yet still got away with their crimes. At the same time, their unchecked idiocy is also what makes viewers pull for Du Bois – the true hero of the story – all the more, urging him to give the gang their much-deserved come-uppance.
Michael Bay shines in his latest directorial effort, proving he can helm more than just Transformers. “Pain and Gain” is like a heavy-handed Coen Brothers movie, with Bay mixing his signature explosions and action in with the crime lore. While they won’t win any Oscars, Mark Whalberg, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson are all spectacular as the Sun Gym Gang. Johnson perhaps even gives the best performance of his career. Tony Shalhoub and Ed Harris are also wonderful as Kershaw and Du Bois, respectively.
“Pain and Gain” proves real life is not only stranger than fiction, but often more entertaining as well.
The Setonian gives this 5 out of 5 stars.
Sean Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.