Pain & Gain – Movie Review

In an effort to avoid working too much and avoid the heat in my office, I watched Michael Bay’s “Pain & Gain” last night and I’m not sure if I would have been better off working.

Pain & Gain is based on a true story, something they remind you of during the movie at least 2 or 3 times. The short version runs like this – a gym-membership salesman dreams of more (the American dream) and convinces 2 friends to join him in kidnapping a businessman to take “everything” from him. This plays out like a Keystone Kops bumbler but work, then after wasting the money, one of the guys sets up another score. Everyone ends up in jail.

That’s a lousy summary, but it’s good enough. This is based on true events in Miami, Florida but Hollywood (Michael Bay) made serious changes to the story and “lightened it” with comedy that wasn’t present in the original. Watching the movie a few bits seemed too much – some of those actually happened – but many were added. The people who survived in real life (murder is involved) were not too happy. I started reading the original articles that this story came from and it’s pretty different right from the start.

Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, the “leader” of our little band that’s rounded out by Anthony Mackie and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson plays a character that doesn’t exist in the original story. Rebel Wilson, Tony Shaloub and Ed Harris round out the major cast.

Lugo isn’t content to be stuck in a dead end job selling Sun Gym memberships – even though he’s awesome at it and has a nice little racket going (Free memberships for strippers) so when his client Kershaw (Shaloub) starts going off about everything he has got, Lugo sets a plan in motion with Adrian Doorbal (Mackie) to kidnap Kershaw and take his house, money and business. The find ex-con Paul Doyle (Johnson) looking for work and convince him to join the group.

For some reason Bay renamed the original victim Mark Shiller to Victor Kershaw and in the credits says the name was changed to protect the original victim. He was named publicly in the original article from 1999. The same goes for Sorina Luminata a stripper who starts with Lugo and is “given” to Doyle under the guise of being a CIA asset. Other than adding to the “reality” of the movie (and you learn this in the closing credits) this serves no purpose to me.

Bay apparently has been trying to make this movie since 2000 shortly after he read the articles, but has been “stuck” in the Transformers franchise all this time. He wanted this to be a “small” movie and given the star power that some of the cast command, they all had to take substantial paycuts (Bay included) to product the film. It’s his first low budget movie since Bad Boys. Yeah, I forgot he made that too.

So, in the end – Pain & Gain isn’t terrible. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is entertaining. I give it a 7/10 and it was ok for a late night filler.