CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Comedy, Crime
  • 2013
  • 129 mins

Pain & Gain

Film4

Synopsis

Michael Bay directs this true crime comedy about three Miami bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) who embark on an ill-fated kidnapping scheme in attempt to improve their mundane lives.

About

I think Michael Bay must have been watching a lot of Coen brothers films when he decided to make Pain & Gain. The darkly comic plot about a bunch of numbskull bodybuilders who think they can cheat their way to a life of luxury by kidnapping a rich gym member and extorting money from him could be lifted straight out of one of Joel and Ethan’s screenplays. Heck, there’s even a severed toe (see The Big Lebowski). The story in fact takes its inspiration from a real-life crime spate in mid-90s Florida - though, as in most true crime movies, names have been changed and liberties taken for the sake of entertainment.

Mark Wahlberg is Daniel Lugo, a personal trainer in a Miami gym who is sick of cow-towing to rich clients. When the highly affluent and deeply unpleasant fast food chain owner Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) enrols at the gym, Daniel hatches a plan to kidnap Victor and steal his money, with a little help from his workout buddies, the buff but impotent Adrian (Anthony Mackie) and naïve ex-con Paul (Dwayne Johnson). “I’ve watched a lot of movies, I know what I’m doing,” says Daniel as they make their way to the heist. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as it happens, pretty much everything, leaving Daniel, his side-kicks and the audience to look on in horror as events take an increasingly violent and grisly turn.

Now, in a Coen Brothers film, this would be the perfect platform for the sort of gallows humour we’ve come to know and love in films like Fargo, No Country For Old Men and Burn After Reading (also, notably, set in a gym). But this is a Michael Bay film, and anyone who has sampled even a small portion of the director’s past work will know what that means: macho men performing macho deeds; vacuous, chesty women in skimpy outfits, and a fair amount of things smashing into other things (fists into faces, cars into walls, really heavy weights onto people’s heads etc.) - all accompanied by a blaring soundtrack, which in this instance happens to be Coolio’s 'Gangsta’s Paradise'. Any scope for nuance and subtlety gets pounded into oblivion pretty fast, making the juxtaposition between hilarity and horror seem a bit tasteless, especially when you take into account the fact that these events supposedly happened in real life.

To be fair to Bay, Pain & Gain is certainly more thought-provoking and restrained than, say, his Transformers movies. He even has a go at creating subtext, albeit by framing a shot of the Stars & Stripes through the barbed wire of a prison fence and getting his money-grabbing characters to repeat the words ‘American Dream’ again and again and again. But it’s the casting that ultimately saves the day. Wahlberg and Mackie give it their all to make their despicable characters if not likeable, then definitely compelling, while Dwayne Johnson’s unquestionable charisma radiates through even the most tawdry of scenes.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Anthony Mackie
  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Screen Writer: Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus
  • Producer: Donald De Line, Michael Bay, Ian Bryce
  • Photographer: Ben Seresin
  • Composer: Steve Jablonsky

In a nutshell

Michael Bay employs his trademark sledgehammer subtlety to make some sort of point about greed and the American Dream. The uneasy blend of comedy and ultra-violence will turn some viewers off but, if you can stomach it, you may find yourself curiously entertained.

by Rebecca Davies

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 In Order Of Disappearance

    In Order Of Disappearance

    Hans Petter Moland sets Stellan Skarsgård's unlikely but effective migrant avenger between two very different drug gangs, with darkly comic results

  • Film4 Son Of Roin Hood

    Son Of Robin Hood

    Robin Hood has died, but the surviving members of his Merry Men team up with Robin's kid to thwart an evil nobleman

  • Film4 Ferris Bueller's Day Off

    Wheels In Motion Season On Film4

    It's a parade of motorcycles, trains and automobiles on Film4 as the Wheels In Motion Season gets rolling

  • Film4 The Moo Man

    The Moo Man On Film4

    Director Andy Heathcote tells the story of a farmer (Stephen Hook) and his cows on an organic dairy farm in the acclaimed Sundance documentary on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2014: The Kingdom Of Dreams And Madness

    Michael Leader catches the highly-anticipated behind-the-scenes documentary The Kingdom Of Dreams And Madness, which charts an integral year in the life of Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Film4 unveils The Museum Of Important Shit

    A collection of ordinary items with extraordinary significance launched in conjunction the film 20,000 Days on Earth featuring Nick Cave. [caption id="attachment_2754" align="alignnone" width="600"]

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • Photo: The Guard (2011) dir. John Michael McDonagh On Film4 9pm Sunday 14th September 2014 http://t.co/wSBBkzgkfA

  • Wheels In Motion highlights: The Sugarland Express! Wadjda! Ferris Bueller's Day Off! Sightseers! And so much more: http://t.co/HyIiwUXczv

  • New season alert! From Weds 17th, we're celebrating the freedom of the open road with Wheels In Motion season: http://t.co/SSN1IMWAOx

  • Have you seen @20000days's Museum Of Important Shit? Inspired by @nickcave, we're sharing items of huge significance: http://t.co/uPoQIP93wW

  • "What man is a man who does not make the world better?" Next at 9pm, the director's cut of Ridley Scott's historical epic Kingdom Of Heaven.

Share