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aka - Pain And Gain
USA 2013
Directed by
Michael Bay
140 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Pain & Gain

Synopsis:  Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a personal trainer with a pressing desire to realize the  American Dream.  After meeting wealthy businessman Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) Lugo enlists Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) to help him steal all of Kershaw’s assets.  With so little brain to go around, three heads are definitely not better than one.

Michael Bay's name is emblematic of empty-headed, action-driven popcorn movies.  Stylistically-speaking Pain & Gain might well fit this bill, and it is occasionally needlessly crass, but for the most part it is smartly self-aware, flaunting a flashy, over-the-top energy with a good deal of parodic panache and wickedly black humour.

For a start the story, based on real-life events, is a hoot. The three muscle-bound muskeeters are marvellously dumb and, assuming that what we see more or less fits real events, that all this came to pass induces one to say “only in America”.  This idiom captures the essence of the on-the-money script by screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.  At one point Daniel, justifying his methods, cites Tony Montana and Michael Corleone as men who achieved the American Dream, completely failing to register the difference between fact and fiction.  The beauty of Pain & Gain is that it does see the difference and is able to put a zestfully absurdist spin on the remarkably reprehensible activities of Lugo and his accomplices.

Wahlberg, Johnson are all excellent in the leads (Mackie has a lesser role) with Shaloub also very effective whilst Ed Harris, who appears towards the film’s end, turns in a nicely-understated role as the film’s moral compass. Unsurprisingly Bay keeps the pace moving spryly and the visuals are a meretricious treat.

No-one is saying that Pain & Gain is a great movie but in the dumb fun stakes it pumps some impressive weight.




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