In 1999, “Miami New Times” published a series of newspaper articles detailing an organized crime unit, of which several members were bodybuilders.
This group participated in numerous criminal activities, ranging from extortion all the way to torture and murder. This so-called “Sun Gym Gang,” two members of which are currently sitting on death row for these crimes, is now the subject of a new Michael Bay film.
“Pain & Gain” follows Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) and his friend Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), who both work for and out at the Sun Gym in Miami, Florida.
Tired of scraping by and lured by a twisted version of the “American Dream,” Lugo conjures a plan to kidnap a rich and arrogant businessman, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), who is a regular at the gym.
They enlist the help of ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and successfully torture Kershaw, forcing him to sign over all of his money.
When the Miami Police Department cannot find the gang, Kershaw hires a private investigator (Ed Harris) to do the job.
Directed by Michael Bay and starring “The Rock” is not the most promising of starts for a movie. Yet, if you are expecting a beefed-up version of “Transformers,” you will be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, there is still enough violence for at least five other action movies, because Michael Bay is and always will be Michael Bay, but Johnson provides a surprisingly solid
Wahlberg is as capable as ever, and Mackie, though not achieving the skill he showed in “The Hurt Locker,” is more than good enough.
Shalhoub as the wonderfully offensive Kershaw is oddly likable, and the rest of the cast delights in their parts.
All in all, the performances in “Pain & Gain” are better than one would expect from an explosive action movie. These performances are likely why the movie works and is certainly more successful than it rightfully should be.
Another surprise is the script. It is not going to win any awards, but it is better than most action movies.
Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are definitely an unexpected choice, given that before “Captain America,” they were best known for penning all three “Chronicles of Narnia” films.
Of course, there are still parts of the movie that were nothing but expected.
Bay cannot seem to resist gratuitous violence or provocative women, and per usual, the film runs a bit too long.
Ultimately, audience reaction is going to depend on what people are looking for.
If you are okay ignoring the dubious morals of the protagonists and simply looking for an entertaining watch, “Pain & Gain” is for you. The film is fast-paced, darkly humorous and a true spectacle. If you only look at its surface, you will not be
It is only once the movie is taken seriously that audiences will start to have problems.
The violence can be a little hard to handle and the narrative has weak points. The story and characters are truly exploitative and sensationalist.
But, if you can overlook all of that, you are in for a fun ride.