Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) believes in fitness – and the American dream and bettering himself and making money and a whole mess of other stuff – but he mainly believes in fitness, and he believes that it is his unique dedication to fitness that will turn him into a success. And, if that doesn’t work, he can always just rob someone.
Based on a true story (a claim that gets progressively harder to believe as the film goes on because this stuff is bonkers), Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain centers on the 1990s crime spree committed by Miami’s own “Sun Gym Gang,” one that saw personal trainer Lugo (along with his equally stupid cohorts, Paul Doyle, played by Dwayne Johnson and Adrian Doorbal, played by Anthony Mackie) hatch the brilliant (sarcasm all-around) scheme to trick a gym customer out of everything he owned.
What started as a simple plan – kidnap millionaire moron Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), get him to sign over all his worldly possessions and funds, release him, and enjoy the spoils – goes hilariously, disastrously, and almost immediately awry.
Crime does not pay, but crime really does not pay when you’re an evil idiot.
Punctuated by moments of intense violence and gut-busting comedy of errors-type mishaps, Pain & Gain is the most entertaining film Bay has ever made.
There is a self-awareness to the film’s humor, tone, and even production design that indicate that Bay has long known about all the stuff people make fun of him for, that he doesn’t care, and that he’s finally found a project that all but begs for each and every one of those elements (and more, so much more).
Bay’s trademark color over-saturation, obsession with glitz and glamour (and, let’s face it, the female form), and quick cuts are entirely at home in the world of Pain & Gain. If the rest of Bay’s resume has been in preparation for this film, it’s all been worth it. Yes, even Transformers: Dark of the Moon…
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