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: Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie
  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Screen Writer: Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus
  • Producer: Ian Bryce, Michael Bay, Donald De Line
  • 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 The Love Punch

    The Love Punch

    A divorced couple (Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson) plot to recover the retirement fund that was swindled away from them in Joel Hopkins romantic caper

  • Film4 Catch Me Daddy

    Catch Me Daddy

    Sameena Jabeen Ahmed stars as a girl on the run from her family with her drifter boyfriend in Daniel Wolfe's thriller

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • Hullo, night owls! At 1am, Jack Nicholson & Bruce Dern star in sophisticated 70s drama The King Of Marvin Gardens: http://t.co/cy7YniKWk1

  • Our late-night highlight at 1am is a New Hollywood gem: The King Of Marvin Gardens, starring Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern.

  • "We didn't cross the border; the border crossed us!" Up next at 10.55pm, Danny Trejo stars in Robert Rodriguez's revenge thriller Machete.

  • "I stopped believing in god when I realised it was just dog spelt backwards." At 9pm, the boys are off to Crete in The Inbetweeners Movie.

  • If you missed Fast Girls earlier, you might be able to catch up with them at 8.15pm on Film4+1: http://t.co/zI3woilu2C

Share