“Pain & Gain” Review

pain-and-gain-posterBy Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

Las Vegas Informer

Michael Bay delivers a terrific, violent, funny heist movie. Wahlberg once again throws himself into the role without movie star ego. He’s fabulous – as it seems – always. I learned a lot about bodybuilders.

No hackneyed robots! “PAIN & GAIN” is based on a true story from a series of articles published in the Miami New Times by Pete Collins. The real characters and scenarios are shown during the end credits.

Its 1994 and Danny Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a bodybuilder not happy to spend his life “spotting” old people at Miami’s Sun Gym. Through his belief in The American Dream and self-help guru Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong), who has a catchy mantra – “Are you a doer or a not doer?” – Danny seizes the opportunity to abduct one of his clients, a blowhard wealthy Colombian-American Jewish businessman, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), and force him to sign over all his assets – the mansion, the yacht, the accounts and the cash.

Pain and Gain 4Because of Danny’s belief in his bodybuilding superiority and zealot’s determinism, he approaches his fellow personal trainer, Adrian (Anthony Mackie). When a former Attica inmate Paul (Dwayne Johnson), a recovering alcoholic, junkie, born-again Christian, and – not to be overlooked – an amazing bodybuilder, Lugo sweet talks him to joining up, promising no one gets hurt.

Pain and Gain 3Each partner has a “good” reason for joining up with Danny. Adrian is suffering from impotence due to his over use of steroids. At a clinic Adrian meets Robin Peck (Rebel Wilson) and it just takes one injection to bring him back to the virility of his teenage years. But the injections are very expensive.

Paul has found Jesus but finding work is much harder. And when his local pastor puts the moves on him, he punches him out. Jesus gave him that gift.

Pain and Gain 4After several half-ass attempts at abducting Kershaw, they finally succeed. Oh, they brutally beat up Kershaw and keep him captive in an abandoned warehouse (the actual warehouse is shown during the end credits). In the ensuing month where the torture of Kershaw to sign the papers gets more and more extreme, Kershaw bonds with Paul.

Finally signing, Danny takes over Kershaw’s mansion and begins establishing himself as a community leader while Paul blows his money on coke and a stripper girlfriend and Adrian hooks up with Robin.

Pain and GainCrippled with broken bones, Kershaw holes up in a motel and finds Ed DuBois (Ed Harris), a retired private eye. The police will not believe Kershaw was kidnapped and all the paperwork is in order. Well, Ed is bored with retirement and decides to meet Kershaw, who is a nasty piece of foul-mouthed work.

Thank goodness I like to see movies without knowing much about it or reading other reviews. I would have been hesitant if I knew it was a Michael Bay film. But, I loved the violence, the unlikeable Kershaw, the steel sexiness of Harris. In fact, everyone was absolutely terrific.

Pain and Gain 2Johnson is an actor and PAIN & gain proves it. Mackie is always good, especially when he keeps asking Paul about his bodybuilding routine. Paul ignores him.

Wahlberg is terrific. Ever since “THE DEPARTED” (2006) – with the exception of “THE LOVELY BONES” (2009) I loved everything he has done. Wasn’t he great in “THE FIGHTER” (2011), allowing Christian Bale to walk off with the movie he produced?

BAR PALY in Tight Dress“PAIN & GAIN” has some of the funniest scenes and I laughed for a good 5 minutes when Danny mentored a bunch of neighborhood boys on working out and getting strippers for girlfriends. Shalhoub doesn’t allow for one moment of sympathy for his character. Along with Wahlberg, he’s all in.

Along with “OBLIVION,” I’d gladly see “PAIN & GAIN” again.

Victoria Alexander is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/ and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/. Victoria’s weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday. http://www.fromthebalcony.com/editorials.php.

If you would like to be included on Victoria’s private distribution list for a weekly preview, just email her at masauu@aol.com. Victoria lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email. You can contact Victoria directly at masauu@aol.com.

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