What happened to Mark Wahlberg? First Ted and now Pain and Gain it seems like he has completely embraced every comedic stereotype some people have of him and have used it to great effect. This is one of those rare movies where it is impossible to create a trailer that does it dark, twisted, and hysterically funny story justice. It is so over the top that of course it is based on a true story.
In the summer of 1994, a Miami personal trainer named Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) hatched a plan to get rich. Being tired of being seen as just the help and high on steroids he decided he was better than the people he was helping. Plus he thought most of his clientele took him for granted. His grand scheme was to kidnap one of his wealthy clients and force them to sign over all their assets.
Along for the ride are his Gym buddies Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and the god fearing, born again, ex-coke addict Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson). Wahlberg and Mackie must have spent hours in the Gym preparing for this role. We’re used to Johnson looking freakishly big and imposing, Mackie and Wahlberg look ridiculously ripped -not in a good way. It bordered on distracting, but eventually I just let it go.
The great Michael Bay (yeah, I said it! I love the “Bayster”) gets a lot of unfair crap from folks who don’t understand that he just likes to make big, dumb, over the top entertaining movies. This is not a typical Bay movie. This movie is actually sort of quirky. It is as if Bay is trying to channel the kings of quirk – The Coen Brothers. It actually feels like Bay is trying to be a bit “experimental” here. There is a strange Fargo and No Country for Old Men Vibe to this movie.
Bay is not exactly known for doing ballsy comedy and certainly not using techniques like copious amounts of voice over, flashbacks and indie tricks like using onscreen titles to set time and place. Bay, a Miami native, read the original Miami Times story written by Pete Collins. Of course a lot of things were changed to make this a movie.
If you know the real story behind this, the movie will most likely upset you as it really does glorify these guys and make it seem like the victims actually deserved their fates. Tony Shalhoub is great as Victor Kershaw the first and primary kidnapped victim. He plays the role of the rich weasel well, but becomes sympathetic as the movie goes on. Almost every character in the movie comments on what a jerk Victor is.
The majority of the movie is told from Lugo’s point of view, but we do eventually get everyone else point of view – however by the time the switchover happens it is hard not to be sympathetic to Lugo. Even the last couple of scenes reiterate that all Lugo wanted was a piece of the American Dream and that he deserved to get the same as everyone else.
Taken for what it is, not reading any social significance into this, Pain and Gain is a fun, unique ride at the movies.
Final Grade B