Retrospective: Pain and Gain (2013)


I hope this film surprised you as much as it surprised me. It’s a Michael Bay movie, which is actually good. It happens to be an independent labour of love (WHAT?!), produced on the smallish budget of $32 million. It’s strange, so very strange, and everyone should try to see this film because it’s surprisingly entertaining considering it’s about some truly vile individuals. Bizarrely, it’s based on the true story of body.

builders who move into the extortion game. The leader of the pack is Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), who you see showing off his extreme fitness. You see him running hell for leather, being chased by the whole of the Miami police force, while explaining how he got to where he is.

The movie is basically in medias res for almost its entire duration, which is an interesting idea. We see a hugely arrogant egomaniac whose idea of personal fitness borders on the fascist. He is frankly one of the best characters Mark Wahlberg has ever played as it seems like the perfect character for the former small time criminal. He has all the talk but none of the ability, apart from his extreme personal fitness. Everyone calls him out on it and he hates it, as he sees himself as a great American hero, constantly quoting crap patriotic statements or picking up on ‘get rich quick’ schemes. His partners in crimes are also surprisingly nuanced as they are not simple meatheads. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is really rather entertaining as an evangelical Christian who has a bad cocaine habit and severe mood swings when on the coke. For the most part, he
is a bit of a gentle giant who is bullied by the other two. The last of the trio of idiots is Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), who is a fellow trainer, a bit of a bully with expensive medical bills due to impotence through steroid abuse.

Convicted fraudster Daniel Lugo is a personal trainer who is hired by a fancy gym, promising to triple John Mese’s (Rob Corddry) membership rate. After he has achieved this, one of his clients (a Jewish/Columbian character played by Tony Shalhoub) boasts about how rich he is and how much money he has. Lugo plans to get him to sign it all over. He recruits Doorbal and Doyle and forms a plan to kidnap this deeply unpleasant character and beat everything he owns out of him. He does it in the most incompetent and stupid way forward, in the most depraved place on earth, which would be Florida. Lugo and Doorbal and Kershaw are all deeply unpleasant with no redeeming features and their unpleasantness is only matched by their incompetence.

The movie has a rather innovative quality as almost all the main characters have a monologue which makes clear all their questionable ideas and downright stupid thoughts as well as the occasionally profound moments. All the characters with exceptions of Doyle and the private detective Ed Du Bois III (Ed Harris) are such unpleasant characters that you hope they will meet an unpleasant end. The presentation is super glossy which is naturally the Bay way. Surprisingly, it works well as it suits the visually obsessed body builders and it means that Bay doesn’t have to work too hard in trying a new filming style, whilst the slightly ridiculous slow mo moments are just added to make it look cool.

This movie has been compared with Spring Breakers but it’s been looked down upon because it was a Bay movie. It has many faults as it’s not a particularly clever film and it didn’t have any impact but it’s a slightly more complex popcorn movie. I also rather enjoyed its stupidity and a better director probably would have made a better film but it is entertaining (more so than I was expecting) and rather surprisingly based on a true story. It possibly has the makings for being a bit of cult movie.

Review by Harry Riedl

PS: Another opinion featuring more long words and visuals 

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