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Pain & Gain(2013)
A pair of knucklehead bodybuilders in Florida get caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong.
For more about Pain & Gain and the Pain & Gain Blu-ray release, see Pain & Gain Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry
Director: Michael Bay
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Pain & Gain Blu-ray Review
Michael Bay: Jack3d.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 9, 2013
If you're willing to do the work, you can have anything.
Colossal calves, titanic thighs, quality quads, awesome abs, formed forearms, bulging biceps, toned triceps, and shredded shoulders. Put in the time (lots of time) and the effort (tons of effort), chug the protein (how many scoops?), keep that metabolism running (it's a furnace!) and the heart rate up (thumpthumpthump), the weight plates clanking (the sound of hard work), the grunts grunting (grunt), and the sweat pouring (splash, ew, wash that shirt tonight), and all of those things -- everything from the neck on down -- will become a reality. Bodybuilders look great -- at least the ones that aren't soaking up steroids and who appear to be more veins and bumps than muscles -- and hats off to them for putting in a tremendous amount of effort, but the stereotype says that classic million-dollar Olympia physiques usually come with the proverbial ten-cent heads. Indeed, the reputation of bodybuilders proceeds them, even more than the formidable shadow they cast. But like most stereotypes, it's not always true. It's smart to train the body along the with the mind, but just as there are plenty of scrawny and unhealthy brains, so too are there plenty of knucklehead bodybuilders who probably have to add weight to the barbell by plate size rather than adding up the numbers on said plates. In Michael Bay's fascinating true-life tale Pain & Gain, it's not so much sheer stupidity that get three bodybuilders in a whole heap of trouble, it's instead bad luck, poor decision making, a failure in foresight, and definitely a whole lot of hubris and incontrollable drive. Ultimately, the weightlifting is but a backdrop; the film is really about human failings and a shockingly rapid descent into self-induced chaos.
Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) knows how to build a body. He works as a personal trainer to get by, and his real job is building his own body. He takes pride in his work and beams when he can help others live their bodybuilding and fitness dreams, whether it's through hard training sessions or a smile and word of encouragement. He convinces the head of Sun Fitness, John Mese (Rob Corddry), to hire him on with the promise of tripling membership and turning what is, for all practical purposes, a gym for the elderly into a hotspot for Miami's best bodybuilders and most attractive women. He succeeds. Business is thriving and he's promoted, but he's still not satisfied. He wants more, the social status and wealth to match his sculpted physique. One of his clients is an ultra-wealthy entrepreneur named Victor (Tony Shalhoub) who endlessly brags on his own success. Lugo recruits another of his clients, Adrian (Anthony Mackie), and a new employee and ex-convict-turned-Christian named Paul (Dwayne Johnson) to help him execute a plan to kidnap Victor and force him to sign away all of his assets to them. The plan ultimately succeeds, but a single mistake leads to an out-of-control situation that will see the men find everything they've ever wanted but face the very real prospect of losing it all through their own mistakes, vices, and greed.
Pain & Gain finds a good bit of success in what amounts to a curious mishmash of styles. The film creates a visual excitement to go along with its story (Michael Bay apparently doesn't know any other kind of way to shoot a movie but, hey, he's great at what he does) but also yields a sometimes uncomfortable sense of humor amidst some pretty dark themes and story elements. Audiences won't know whether to laugh or look away in disgust, at times, but no matter what might be happening there's an unmissable draw to the story as it quickly but very believably spins so far out of control that it defines the old adage about something being so crazy that it can only be real. However, the film never feels disjointed, clumsy, or forced. On the contrary, there's a very strong cohesion to it. Bay's direction -- for as frenetic as it usually is (it only slows down for slow motion accent shots) -- emphasizes the story and builds the characters smartly and distinctively. Even as the picture grows significantly more grim, the characters expand and evolve with a natural progression as their actions and the reactions to their actions take shape and impact their lives.
What Pain & Gain boils down to is a fascinatingly morbid tale of material obsession, of allowing good ideas, strong words, and positive results to become mutated somewhere on the way into the eyes and ears, through the brain, and back out the mouth, hands, and feet. Lugo takes pride in his physique and his ability to turn the fortunes of his gym and allows that pride to transform into a want for more, to expand his status beyond his body and acquire the material goods to match. He wants social status as big as his arms, no matter the price. And it's his pursuit of those things -- or, his wayward, unintelligent pursuit of those things -- that destroy several lives along the way. Pain & Gain is as much a tragedy as it is anything else, the story of how one bad choice can destroy a lifetime's worth or work. It almost needs that underlying sense of humor in order to make it bearable. Bay blends it all together with an expert hand, keeping things in his familiar style but, perhaps more than in any other film he's made, finding a legitimate center beyond sight and sound and constructing a story and the characters that make it with an expert touch along every step of the way.
Likewise, the cast digs deep and finds the substance of the character spirals. Certainly, they look the part, but Wahlberg, Johnson, and Mackie explore beyond the exterior to craft convincing portraits that, at the most fundamental level, depict a literal and figurative fall from grace. They all lose something through the course of the film, not only what they gain through their actions but everything they worked so hard to accomplish before making their poor choices. Johnson in particular delivers a surprisingly well-rounded performance as he, first, battles himself and his commitment to cleaner living and the spiritual walk while a willing part of the group and forced into performing actions he finds unpalatable or worse. He convinces the audience of his commitment to maintain his faith, dignity, and everything he's built even when confronted with the ultimate temptations and cornered into working contrary to his beliefs. And with every turn the character takes, Johnson finds both the evolving and in-the-moment but also the greater heart and soul of the character. No, it's not some classic, intimate, dark character study, but it's beyond proficient and helps define the movie further than its superficialities would otherwise allow.
Pain & Gain Blu-ray, Video Quality
Pain & Gain has put in its work at the gym and shows tremendous results. Paramount's 1080p transfer looks incredible, from the brightest Miami exteriors to the bleakest, bloodiest interiors. The transfers reveals an almost ridiculously brilliant palette, one that's awash in a huge variety of shades that sparkle under the Florida sun. Orange and baby blue workout shirts nicely contrast against a deluge of white early in the film, representing some of the finest colors in the film. There's a slight warmth to the palette for sure, but only slight. Skin textures never look hot and those boldest colors never appear overly saturated or processed. On the whole, this is a beautifully balanced array of colors. Blacks are deep and never drift away from a natural state. Details are just as impressive. Facial textures are naturally complex and the transfer shows every bead of sweat and splatter of blood in great detail. Sweatbands, clothing stitches, and other objects are reveled without flaw. Image clarity never wavers, and sharpness never dissipates. This is an excellent transfer in every area, one that feels cinematic from start to finish.
Pain & Gain Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Pain & Gain's Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless soundtrack dazzles. As expected, it's big and bold, effortlessly spaced and fully immersive. Much of the music is of the pulsing Dance variety. Heavy but balanced and accurate bass belts out of the subwoofer inside a strip club in chapter four. It's the really good sort of bass, the clean and potent type, not the rattly and vibrating variety. More, similar beats pound into the stage during a montage midway through the film. The surrounding elements come through with excellent clarity even considering the thunderous volume and prodigious low end. There are ample supportive elements, too, such as a crisply defined ringing of a church bell or the sonic atmosphere in and around the gym. Gunfire erupts on several occasions, hitting hard and spreading through the stage with the primary goal of placing the listener in the middle of the mayhem. The surround channels carry a healthy assortment of all musical, environmental, and action-sepcific effects. Dialogue plays with center-front balance and lifelike clarity. This is an excellent, exhilarating track from beginning to end.
Pain & Gain Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Oddly, this Blu-ray release of Pain & Gain contains no bonus content. However, a UV Digital copy voucher and a DVD disc are included in the case.
Pain & Gain Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Pain & Gain: less of the former, more of the latter. There's a lot to like about Michael Bay's most character-driven film. Morbid humor, sorrow, excitement, and fascination all come together into a fairly unique movie about man's ability to lose everything in the pursuit of the material, particularly by shady means and poor choices before, during, and after corruption. The story constantly evolves and becomes more and more ridiculous, but for all the unraveling, the tighter and better it becomes. Solid direction, superb pacing, and quality performances make this a surprise winner. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Pain & Gain features reference video and audio. Oddly, no extras are included. Recommended.
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Pain & Gain Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 27-September 3 - August 25, 2013
For the week of August 27th, Paramount Pictures is releasing Pain and Gain, Michael Bay's look at the American Dream. Other titles include Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby adaptation, the third season of The Walking Dead, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg's Kon-Tiki, ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: Pain & Gain Prize Pack and Blu-rays - August 23, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Paramount Home Entertainment are offering three members a chance to win a copy of Michael Bay's Pain & Gain. One grand prize winner will also walk away with a Pain & Gain prize pack, which includes a Blu-ray signed by actor Mark Wahlberg, a Bullet ...
• Pain & Gain Blu-ray - June 25, 2013
Paramount Home Media Distribution has officially announced that it will release a combo pack edition of director Michael Bay's latest action film Pain & Gain (2013), starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie, and Rebel Wilson. ...
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