Title: Pain and Gain
HTS Overall Score:
I knew from the minute that I heard about “Pain and Gain” that we were in for a bit of a different movie. Based (and I mean just BASED) off of a true story, where real life thugs and muscle-bound, steroid-ridden criminals who worked out at Miami’s Sun Gym, kidnapped, tortured and stole money from wealthy individuals on a crime spree and thought they could get away with it. Now Michael Bay (of all people) decides to take the story and turn it into a darkly comical satire. The first trailers had it out to be a full on comedy for the most part. As time when on, the trailers started showing more and more of the darker side of the film, and I was intrigued. How was Michael Bay, king of “bla-bla-bloom” and “Baysplosion!” type films going to handle a dark comedy with such a low budget? Quite well, actually. This film is polarizing, and rightfully so, but it is also one of Michael Bay’s most mature films to date. Before this, “The Rock” and “The Island” were his most cerebral pieces, but this by far shines a new light on the master of disaster and explosions. Gone are the fart jokes and the giant CGI budgets, and we see a much grittier and personal take with the dialogue and visuals.
The story starts with Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a bored fitness instructor in Miami, just reminiscing over his life and how he wished he could make something of himself. Upon going to a Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong) self-help talk he decides to DO something with his life. It just so happens that his version of “DOING” something with his life may not be the most legal. Enlisting the aid of another fitness nut at his gym, Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), the duo plans to kidnap one of Lugo’s filthy rich clients, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), and force him to sign over all his assets to them. Seems simple, right? Seeing that it’s a bit too much for them to handle, they decide that another addition to the crew is in order. That addition comes in the form of ex-con turned religious weightlifter, Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson). Johnson is a sweet guy, but just a bit dimwitted and gullible. Lugo insists that this is just going to be a walk in the park. Snag this rich slob, smack him around a little and walk away with lots of coin. Unfortunately, the steroid use they’ve taken over the years has probably affected their brains. It takes multiple tries to snag Kershaw, and once they get him, they find out that Kershaw is a bit tougher than they thought. Kershaw figures out who they are based on the Cologne Daniel Lugo wears and then things turn ugly. What was going to be a violence free kidnapping turns into days and weeks of being tortured till finally Kershaw snaps and signs over all of his holdings to the trio of thugs. Due to the fact that Kershaw knows their faces, they must get rid of him. After a botched murder attempt Kershaw ends up in the local hospital where the cops kind of brush him off and our three new criminals are free to go about their business.
The three pumped up muscle men are finally in the money. Spending the money on a house, drugs, and goodness knows what else, the men chew through their new found wealth rather quickly. As with those who have tasted ill-gotten fruits, their hunger cannot be satiated. They turn their eyes on another wealthy man about town as their next target. At the same time, Kershaw, battered and bruised from experience, has hired a private detective named Ed Dubois (Ed Harris) in order to track these men down and get his money back. This tends to start the unraveling of Lugo’s plan. With Dubois on their tails, their every move is watched and scrutinized and what was once just glossed over by other men is brought to light with Dubois’s careful study. The bumbling lunacy of the trio finally trips them up when Dubois has enough evidence to convince the Miami Metro police to go after the men with an arrest warrant. Doorbal and Doyle are caught, but Lugo makes a valiant run for the Bahama’s where he can retire out of sight, which results in a race against time where Kershaw can finally get his revenge.
The film is rather polarizing, as I said earlier, and I can see why. The story behind the film is a tragic one and not one to make light of, and it seems that the humor in the film can come across as offensive at times. After watching the movie, and re-watching the movie, and contemplating, I’m of the firm opinion that we are not looking at a dark comedy here. What we have is a straight out satire of the situation and of the American dream in general. The comedy is not laugh-out-loud funny material, but rather dark humor that’s more a chuckle at the sheer idiocy and lunacy of the situation rather than making fun of the people that suffered. Think of it as kind of a coping mechanism to keep the film from being so dark and bleak that it actually turns you off from the savagery and sickening moral decay of the men. All the characters portrayed in the film are pure caricatures, larger-than-life over-exaggerations that are not meant to be a portrayal of reality, but rather used to get a point across. Daniel Lugo and his compatriots are semi-decent men, seemingly, but as time goes on, their morals, their standards, are eroded away due to greed, manipulation and the pure evil that resides deep within them that they have tried to suppress and cover up. Lugo is a vain person, angry at himself and all those around who have more than he does. His vicious nature comes out when he feels he’s being looked down upon and he reacts violently. Doorbal is greedy and wants more, he wants to be kind of the world and he’s willing to step over everyone else to get there. Now the last character is easily my favorite: Doyle (The Rock) is a big lug, a violent man who’s assuaged his violence with repentance and uses the Bible to justify his actions. Instead of following the teachings, he cherry picks what he wants out of the Bible and uses that justify a guilty conscience and violent heart. A genuinely caring guy, he’s also easily manipulated and is the one that falls the hardest. Strippers, Cocaine, the works; watching him fall is the most heartbreaking of them all.
The movie is not without its faults though. Sometimes the goofier humor seems out of place and just doesn’t jive well with some of the more serious parts of the film. Also, the pacing is off during the middle part of the film. The opening act and the first kidnapping are done flawlessly, but the second act of violence just feels “off” if you know what I mean. Stretched out a bit longer than it should have, I could have seen this movie being about 20 minutes shorter. Mark Wahlberg is his typical confused self in the film, and I have NEVER seen him this jacked up! This is the first time I’ve seen him look like an ACTUAL bodybuilder. Anthony Mackie is fairly middle of the road with his performance, but is still a good character. The Rock is easily my favorite character in the film. Dwayne Johnson has done a fantastic job at playing a big hulking action star, but recently he’s gone out of his way to play several deeper, and more complex characters as in “Snitch” and now this. Also leave it to The Rock to make the Rock look like a wuss. Just compare pictures of him in “Faster” or “Snitch” and now and it’s shocking. He’s absolutely GINORMOUS! (and he gets even bigger in “Fast 6”, if you can believe it)
Rated R for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use
Well, if the story of “Pain and Gain” isn’t 100% perfect, then the picture quality sure is. Paramount has given us a truly perfect 2.39:1 AVC encode today. Literally, one of the most natural looking pictures I have ever seen. The contrasts and skin tones are perfect with just the slightest touch of an orange tinge to the film. The detail is absolutely flawless. You can see every muscle, every curve of the cheek and every flaw of the actors on screen. I could even see the stretch marks on The Rock’s neck without even trying to! Long shoots look just as incredible as the close up facial shots. Gorgeous shots of the Florida landscape is lush and green with colors that just absolutely pop on every level. Blues, greens, reds, oranges and all the little shades are replicated perfectly. Blacks are inky and deep with some truly fantastic shadow detail. All I can say is WOW! What a fantastic looking video encode. One of the best I’ve seen this year.
To top it all off the audio is JUST as perfect. The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track is just teeming with activity. The dialogue is nice and clear, with just the right amount of panning across the front sound stage. The movie just is littered with heavy usage of the surrounds and the rear surrounds are just over run with detail. From the sounds of street traffic, the sound of weights clanging in the gym, or dull thuds of Daniel Lugo going to town on his victims, it’s all there, just surrounding you and enveloping one into the film. The dynamic range is POWERFUL, yet balanced. THE LFE track just thunders on all levels, not since Oblivion have I had a track that just shuddered my walls with consistent and deep LFE. From the moments of the opening dialogue I knew we were in for a sonic bombardment. The LFE started and pretty much didn’t let up till the end credits rolled. Bravo, Paramount, Bravo.
Being a purely dark satire, the film is not going to appeal to everyone. I’m not even sure WHAT to compare it against. Whether you end up liking the film, or not liking the film, I would definitely recommend that you at least check the film out. It’s much different that Michael Bay’s previous outings, and one of the most unique films of the year. It has some flaws, but I enjoyed the film a lot. It’s not one that you can laugh yourself silly over, or just enjoy as a popcorn film, but rather see what Bay’s trying to tell us with his over-the-top satire of three men who spiral downward into a mess of morals and conscience, and the over-exaggeration of the American Dream’s constant pressure to make something MORE of yourself and to strive for as much as you can. The video and audio scores are off the chart and the film is demo material from beginning to end. The only shocking thing is that there is ZERO extras, and I mean zip, nada, NOTHING. Not even a preview. If you know Michael Bay that means a special edition is already probably in the works, but even with that caveat, I don’t think you can go wrong if you want to pick it up for the already cheap release price. Definitely a watch, even if not everyone will opt for a buy.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Spanish, French, Portuguese DD 5.1
Runtime: 130 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: August 27th, 2013
Buy Pain and Gain Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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