Pain and Gain

WRITTEN BY: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely,
DIRECTED BY: Michael Bay
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johsnon, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub
RATING: 2.5 stars

As a journalist, I have written my fair share of articles about people who have been in trouble with the law for doing ridiculous and stupid things. But I don't think I have ever come across a story as long and embarrassing as the true story depicted in Pain and Gain. I was not familiar with the case before seeing the film, but I later learned how outrageous the true story was, although the film certainly changes and exaggerates a lot of events. Survivors have shunned the film for representing the criminals sympathetically and making it a comedy when there was so much tragedy involved. But, it is actually a bizarrely funny story and it is this fact alone that makes the film so intriguing. Unfortunately, the result is not quite as powerful as the concept because director Michael Bay has over-directed the film and polluted it with unnecessary action when it should be a black comedy.

Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a Miami bodybuilder in search of the American dream. He recruits fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict bodybuilder Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), a devout Christian, to help him with a ridiculous get quick rich scheme. They fumble and fluke their way into kidnapping unlikeable millionaire, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), and force him to sign over his wealth to them. But, as things start to unravel for the trio, they are forced to commit more crimes, including murder to cover up their screw ups.

There are some interesting aspects to the film, including the way the story is narrated by different characters. It is a good way of learning about each of their points of view. There are also some very funny moments – many of which are created by Rebel Wilson, who plays Mackie's love interest. Ken Jeong also has a good small role as a motivational speaker who tells Daniel to be a "doer" instead of a "don't-er". Unfortunately, there are also a lot of jokes that fall flat and could offend some people. At about two hours, the film is also too long.

Wahlberg holds the film together reasonably well and has obviously put in some effort to bulk up extra to be like a bodybuilder. Johnson is perhaps the most sympathetic of the bad guys and it is a good role for him to play a sensitive, religious, beefy guy who cannot seem to stop snorting cocaine. Mackie has some of the more embarrassing scenes involving his manhood and is quite funny in parts, while Shaloub is roughed up a lot in the film and is entertaining. Ed Harris is also very good as the private detective who investigates the trio of misfits.

Pain and Gain has its moments of goofy fun, but it lacks any memorable staying power.