‘Pain & Gain’ doesn’t hurt… much… but is Michael Bay’s best since ‘The Rock’

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Mark Wahlberg in 'Pain & Gain'
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Mark Wahlberg in ‘Pain & Gain’

[rating=3]Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Bar Paly, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, Michael Rispoli and Kelli Lefkovitz
Writer(s):  Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (screenplay), based on the articles written by Pete Collins
Director(s):  Michael Bay

The new film from director Michael Bay, Pain & Gain, is based on a true story involving kidnapping, torture and murder.  The criminals were bodybuilders who worked out at the same gym in Miami.  “Daniel Lugo” (Wahlberg) was a personal trainer at the gym, which was owned by “John Mese” (Corddry).  Lugo got himself hired by promising to triple the membership, which he did.  But he wanted more from life, especially after attending a success seminar put on by “Johnny Wu” (Jeong); who divided people into two groups.  Doers and Donters.  Lugo wanted to be a doer.

He enlisted his good friend “Adrian Doorbal” (Mackie) in his scheme and “Paul Doyle” (Johnson) also became part of the plan.  That was to kidnap one of Lugo’s clients, “Victor Kershaw” (Shalhoub) who was wealthy and a major pain in the ass.  Once they had him in their clutches, they would force him to sign over all of his assets to them and then they’d dump him somewhere after drugging him.  But the plan goes awry after he recognizes Lugo.  So they decide once they have his money, they have to kill him.

But he survives all of their efforts to kill him and after the police won’t take his story seriously, he calls a private detective.  “Ed Du Bois” (Harris) is a retired cop who doesn’t believe him either, at least not at first.  Soon however, he is investigating the trio, who are now living large on Kershaw’s money.  As his investigation proceeds, they find out that Kershaw is still alive and want very much to find and kill him.

Meanwhile, Paul has run through his share of the crime proceeds, and wants to do it again, to someone with more money.  “Frank Gringa” (Rispoli) is a porn king and the trio is going to try to scam him.  Things go awry and suddenly there are bodies to dispose of, while Du Bois continues to search for evidence to bring the trio down.


This is one of the better films to come from Bay since The Rock, although that’s not saying much.  While not groundbreaking or particularly brilliant, Pain & Gain has wit and interesting characters, although some of both are lost in Bay’s incessant need to have chase scenes and violence.  Worse yet, the level of violence doesn’t begin to come close to the real story in terms of how the victims were tortured and put through a living hell.  Wahlberg is good and Shalhoub is terrific as the douchebag who manages to evoke sympathy in spite of what an awful person he is.  Rebel Wilson has a few nice moments as the nurse who gives treatment first, and then love to Doorbal for an embarrassing medical predicament.  However, the talented Rob Corddry goes to waste in this film.

I don’t want to provide film spoilers, but after you’ve seen the film, check out the real story, which is much more interesting.  The film is based on three articles published in the Miami New Times.

Rated: R
Run Time: 2 hrs., 10 mins.

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