Pain & Gain is Michael Bay’s best movie since the original Bad Boys, and I loved it. This is the movie he’s wanted to make for years and I can see why. While yes, this is a Bay movie, there is only one explosion. One! And it made sense plot wise (they were blowing up a car). Mark Wahlberg gave an awesome performance as the somewhat stupid Daniel Lugo, and the Rock completely stole the show. The basic premise for the movie can be gleamed from the trailer.
Lugo gets it in his head that he wants more in life, and the only way to achieve that is to steal it. Why he thought this was a good idea was beyond me. Lugo works as a personal trainer and has a rich half Jewish/Columbian client, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), that he decides to rob. He brings his friend and fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) in on the scheme. The two realize they need a third and tap fresh from prison, sober, born again christian Paul Doyle (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).
The movie follows these three anti-heroes in 1994-95 as they kidnap and torture Kershaw, getting him to sign over his wealth. Their plan actually succeeds, but then falls apart as they do. Doyle (Johnson), falls off the wagon after the heist and starts abusing cocaine. Throughout the movie we watch as he literally becomes insane. It is absolutely hysterical. This is a dark comedy through and through with many laugh out loud moments. Make no mistake, you watch as bad people do bad things. While I never stopped laughing, I did feel a little guilty in the third act as their crimes spree reached insane heights. I think the feeling came from me enjoying watching their antics though they were a little creepy and violent. Still, I barely stopped laughing for the final 30 minutes of the movie.
The only stylistic choice that seemed odd to me was how the 5 main characters each had a narration part. While it was nice to hear what they were thinking, the mechanic was dropped by the 2nd act save for a one time use from a new character. It didn’t detract from the experience for me, but did stick out.
While the movie claims it’s “based on a true story,” adapted from might be a better descriptor. Lugo and Doorbal were real people, sentenced to death for their crimes. Doyle is a composite off three people, based mostly on Jorge Delgado. The stripper character though, everything about her is 100% true (except she stuck with Lugo). Kershaw is based on Marc Schiller. Lugo is depicted with sub-par intelligence, when he was actually very smart. Also, their gang consisted of more than three.
None of this matter though. The movie is fun to watch. There’s no massive twists, plot holes, mysteries, or fake outs. This is simply about three guys, and the trouble they get into. For me, this ranks up their with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. All three starring miscreants that are far from being paragons, but still incredibly enjoyable to watch. I can understand why people didn’t like this movie (rocking a 47% on rottentomatoes); unrelatable anti-heroes, violence, and bad people doing bad things, but that was all part of the fun for me. This will be in my top 5 movies for the year.
The grill scene was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long while.