Movie Review: 'Pain and Gain' is a dark and absurd riot

A very smart black comedy about some very stupid criminals, ‘Pain and Gain’ is a very funny and fun movie bolstered by some terrific performances by its actors.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo, a Miami fitness trainer who decides that the best way to get what you deserve… is to take it from someone else. Inept but ambitious, Lugo is portrayed as a man easily inspired by the wave of self help and motivational gurus on infomercials during the mid 1990’s. Lugo constantly regurgitates self help slogans to motivate his fitness clients and co-workers.

When wealthy client Victor Kershaw crosses his path, Lugo decides to become a “doer” and take his destiny to become rich into his own hands. Lugo recruits two friends from the gym as co-conspirators, Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) the Jesus-saved former felon, and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), the steroid fueled chronic under achiever.

The clueless trio decides to kidnap wealthy businessman Victor Kershaw (Tony Shaloub) and coerce him into signing over his substantial assets to them.

Nothing goes as planned. That much is obvious from the movie’s synopsis and its trailers. The execution of this absurdly dark comedy of errors, however, is much more entertaining and rewarding than one might expect. Violently and profanely entertaining, ‘Pain and Gain’ is a comedy for adult audiences.

A smart and funny script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, along with the pleasantly surprising comedic talents of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, combine to make ‘Pain and Gain’ a very satisfying trip to the movies. Mark Wahlberg is top-notch as Lugo, as his comedic timing turns his character into an absurdly tragic antihero. Rebel Wilson, Ed Harris, and Tony Shaloub are spot-on as well as supporting characters that round out this sordid true–crime story.

Kudos is due also to director Michael Bay. ‘Pain and Gain’ is a slick looking, well paced ride into the ridiculous. Bay has taken a “stranger than fiction” true story and imbued it with style, energy, and wit that benefit greatly from his films’ stars.

The end credits contain an epilogue which I found to be interesting, as well.


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