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Pain & Gain

2013 | 129 min | R | 2.39:1

Pain & Gain


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

User reviews

3 user reviews

Movie appeal

Dark humor29%


Theatrical release date

 26 April, 2013
 28 August, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Pain & Gain


Screenshots from Pain & Gain Blu-ray

Pain & Gain Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, April 25, 2013

After the 2011 release of the global blockbuster “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” director Michael Bay wanted to challenge himself again. After years of gargantuan features, “Pain & Gain” represented a return to roots planted with the 1995 action comedy “Bad Boys,” offering Bay a chance to cause a comparatively low-budget ruckus in his favorite filming location: Miami. The robots in disguise are gone, replaced by equally destructive bodybuilders on the hunt for the American Dream, and while the potential of this true story is immense, Bay resorts to his old tricks, making the picture more frustrating and deadening than raucous. Intentionally ugly and mean-spirited, “Pain & Gain” somehow believes itself to be a coked-out, body-smashing good time at the movies. Instead, it’s quite a chore to sit through.

It’s Miami in the 1990s, and Daniel (Mark Wahlberg) is a convicted felon searching for inspiration, turning to bodybuilding for focus, while self-help huckster Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong) influences the dreamer’s intensity, pushing him to be a “doer” instead of a “don’ter.” Unfulfilled at his personal trainer job, Daniel zeros in on Victor (Tony Shalhoub), an arrogant millionaire who spews ugliness during his workout sessions, prompting the beefy gym employee to plan a kidnapping, hoping to drain his victim of every resource imaginable, taking over his life. Recruiting impotent co-worker Adrian (Anthony Mackie) and born-again bruiser Paul (Dwayne Johnson) for help, Daniel declares war, hiding Victor in a sex toy warehouse while he works to steal every last cent. Drunk on wealth, comfort, and power, Daniel, Adrian, and Paul let loose, reviving drug habits, romancing women, and flaunting their spoils, leaving private detective Ed (Ed Harris) with an opening to examine the situation, eventually panicking the trio into a rash of horrible, violent acts of self-preservation.

As “Pain & Gain” likes to remind the viewer on multiple occasions, the movie is based on a true story. It’s a badge of honor that Bay wears proudly, permitting him a license to labor over every nightmarish step of Daniel’s plan and the grand disaster of its outcome. Admittedly, it’s nice to find Bay dealing with an earthbound situation for a change, focused intently on character misdeeds and a world of tightly-wound weightlifters, studying the insane drive of those who seek to perfect their bodies while the rest of their lives fall apart. The screenplay (credited to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) takes an intriguing route of narration, passing the POV baton around this collection of combustible personalities, hearing their inner thoughts and master plans as they engaged in spastic buffoonery, lending “Pain & Gain” a chessboard feel of engagement, watching the men make their moves and suffer the consequences. However, this offering of individualism doesn’t last for very long.

For its first hour, “Pain & Gain” paints a familiar portrait of life in Baytropolis, where the skies are blue, the women are scantily clad and golden brown, and the cinematography never sits still (Bay places cameras everywhere to cover the action and treats slo-mo like a new toy). Honestly, the picture’s use of color is quite appealing, delivering rich hues in a concussive manner few directors are comfortable with these days. Bay keeps the movie engorged despite a modest budget, while mining the madness of it all with palpable glee, masterminding images of a feverish Daniel working to achieve his ridiculous goals, while time spent with Adrian and Paul reveal their difficulties with sexual performance (Rebel Wilson portrays Adrian’s girlfriend) and questions of faith. Bay’s having fun, and while the merriment isn’t infectious, the sun-soaked, augmented spirit of “Pain & Gain” is reasonably engaging, taking a darkly comic approach to scenes of torture and captivity, and idiot oomph is readily supplied by Wahlberg, Mackie, and Johnson, who make up a bulging Three Stooges, tearing around the effort, eagerly following anywhere Bay leads.

Unfortunately, “Pain & Gain” takes forever to get where it wants to go, dwelling on every last millimeter of the crime, which puts the effort just over a two-hour run time. That’s a good 40 minutes longer than this craziness needs to fully flesh out Daniel’s mounting mistakes, with the second half of the feature lingering on repetitive plotting, extreme violence, and a leaden subplot concerning Ed’s hunt for the trio as the kidnapping plan turns to mush. Promising a bloody tap dance, Bay can’t help but gas up his steamroller style, offering signature shots and prolonged pandemonium to a point where it honestly feels like the film will never end. “Pain & Gain” goes from passably amusing to punishment, keeping a firm grip on its true story claim to justify protracted scenes of body dismemberment, drug-fueled mania, and wild-eyed desperation, leaving a few gaps in the plot behind. And supporting characters played by Bar Paly (as Paul’s moronic stripper girlfriend) and Rob Corddry (as Daniel’s gym boss, playing a larger role in the picture’s denouement than in the film itself) are left indistinct, despite ample time to inspect their interests.

“Pain & Gain” doesn’t celebrate the horrific particulars of Daniel’s dream, but it doesn’t necessarily condemn the actions either. Bay embraces the lunacy and lovingly itemizes the gruesomeness, trying to spin the movie as an incredible true tale of brain-dead ambition run amok, habitually communicating to the audience that what we’re seeing isn’t born from his imagination, as if to absolve himself of any personal responsibility when it comes to the effort’s blood-soaked excesses. “Pain & Gain” desires to be a true crime extravaganza bear-hugging absurdity, yet in Michael Bay’s care, it’s just business as usual.

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Rebel Wilson
Director: Michael Bay

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