Pain & Gain Review: More Pain than Gain

I had once sworn to my best friend that I would never, and I mean never ever, watch another Michael Bay movie.  I threw a tantrum when I read that he was directing the new TMNT movie and said that they were aliens.  I put him on my list under Uwe Boll, but then I saw a trailer for Pain & Gain.  While Marky Mark didn’t do it for me and even Tony Shalhoub couldn’t get me to the theater, Bay threw out his trump card.  So off I went to see Pain & Gain because Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was going to to grace us with his awesomeness.

Firstly, the movie is loosely based around actual events that happened in Miami in the mid-90’s.  The main culprits were dubbed the “Sun Gym Gang” and their exploits which included kidnapping, extortion, torture and murder were memorialized in the Miami New Times.  The gang were basically a bunch of roided-up bodybuilders who turned into criminals.

Pain & Gain is a Mark Wahlberg vehicle as he stars as the brains of the operation, Daniel Lugo who works at the Sun Gym with his friend Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie).  Daniel is sick of being a bodybuilder and personal trainer since there’s not much cash in it and decides that the best way to improve his life is to kidnap Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub).  Kershaw is a filth-rich businessman who shows Daniel what the good life could be, and with Daniel wanting more than just a taste, decides to extort money from him by any means necessary.

That means calling in the big guns aka ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), and with his help the gang not only manages to kidnap Kershaw after several ‘hilarious and bizarre attempts, but also get him to sign over everything.  By everything I mean not only his money, but his offshore bank accounts, his cars, and his house. They then try to kill him, but miraculously Kershaw survives the attempt and hires private investigator Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) to catch them after the Miami Police department laugh his story off.  And so ensues some wacky hijinks.

I wanted to like Pain & Gain more than I did even with the questionable decision of making it a black comedy.  It’s 130 minutes long, which is way too much time and allows Bay to divert his attention from what we should be focusing on, aka the consequences of the gang’s actions, and instead we end up watching the typical Michael Bay movie.  Explosions, bikinis, strippers, fart jokes, and let’s not forget a waxing scene.  Classy Mr. Bay, just classy.

What saves Pain & Gain are the performances. The actors are so good that you almost forget that you made the terrible decision to watch a Michael Bay movie.  The three leads are great. Wahlberg is earnest as the both unlikable, yet charming Lugo, The Rock is very convincing in his desire to be SAVED and his addiction to drugs, and Mackie delivers an equally convincing performance as a man who hitched his wagon to the wrong train. The supporting cast is also spot on with Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Bar Paly and Rebel Wilson all stepping up in this film.  Special Kudos to Paly, who plays Sorina Luminita, a former beauty queen turned stripper who gets charmed and conned by Lugo.

Pain & Gain should have been a better movie, and I think that it being made into a dark comedy is its problem. The true story of the Sun Gym Gang and what they did is fascinating, in fact before I went and saw the movie I read up on them and couldn’t believe their incredible story.  They not only tortured and robbed Kershaw (not the real victims name) but also murdered and dismembered innocent people all in the name of stealing their wealth.  Add to the fact that the families are alive and that these murders happened not that long ago (the 90’s), and there is a certain amount of consideration that should have been there for those people.  Instead what we get is some weird alternate universe telling of some bumbling, yet likable incompetents who are completely justified in their actions because the guy that they’re doing it to is some awful human being who got exactly what he deserved.

It’s not that I hate Michael Bay- I liked Transformers a lot- and honestly I get his appeal.  But the problem is Pain & Gain is not the type of story that should have recieved the Michael Bay treatment.  It’s not the worst movie ever, it’s just the wrong pairing of a movie and director that never should have interacted.  Pain & Gain isn’t awful, and people will certainly enjoy the actors, but it’s definitely the case of a bodybuilder who should have laid down his weights a longtime ago.


Pain & Gain isn’t awful and people will certainly enjoy the actors, but it’s definitely the case of a bodybuilder who should have laid down his weights a longtime ago.

Review Overview


Pain & Gain could have been an intruiging story. Keyword being could.

Summary : Pain & Gain tries to tell the true story of the Sun Gym Gang by way of black comedy. Instead of laughing you feel a bit uncomfortable.

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