Pain & Gain Blu-ray Review

From the opening moments of PAIN & GAIN, it’s clear that this is not your typical Michael Bay film.  Sure, we had an explosion, a fistfight and even a chase scene, but for the first time in his career, Bay put the emphasis on the characters and the story.  In fact, if it weren’t for the overuse of waist-high shots, it would be hard to tell this is a Michael Bay film.  PAIN & GAIN might be proof that Michael Bay is growing as a filmmaker and the result is a surprisingly fun ride that will leave you in awe that this is actually based on a true story.

Mark Wahlberg in Pain & Gain

Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo, a self-absorbed personal trainer obsessed with fitness and enamored with a self-help guru named Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong).  Frustrated with his lot in life and inability to live the luxurious lifestyle he feels he deserves, he concocts a plan to kidnap a wealthy businessman and force him to sign over everything he has.  To help him with his plan, he partners with two fellow bodybuilders, Paul (The Rock) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie).  Although the plan might sound like something an elite criminal would come up with, what makes this story interesting is how stupid the three kidnappers are.  Their stupidity is embraced wholeheartedly by Michael Bay and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, but not in a slapstick comedy type of way, but in a natural manner so the audience understands how the trio came to their conclusions, even if we knew how ridiculous their actions were.  Their stupidity drives a lot of the absurdity that transpires on the screen and it was quite a feat to present the characters in a way that would balance the line between comical and believable.

Pain & Gain

A lot of things came together for this movie to work, but the highlight of the film is the performance from Mark Wahlberg.  This is easily the best performance of his career and he somehow managed to lose the pseudo-tough guy persona he always has and completely lose himself in this character.  I’m not sure this is a compliment, but Mark Wahlberg instantly had me convinced that his character was dumb, but just smart enough to actually pull off their ridiculous plot, albeit temporarily.  Wahlberg just has a look about him that makes you think he would do something like this and it was refreshing to see him play against type and actually stretch himself as an actor.  Dwayne Johnson also shines in his role as the equally dumb Paul that’s just along for the ride and in need of someone to guide him.  For The Rock, the key was to keep things reserved and he did just that.

Mark Wahlberg in Pain & Gain

If it wasn’t for the fact this is based on a true story, I might complain that the plot is a little too far-fetched, but that’s what makes PAIN & GAIN so great; this actually happened.  There’s a scene when Dwayne Johnson is outside grilling and there’s text that pops up on the screen to remind you this is a true story.  That’s how outlandish this film may seem and why it was a perfect fit for Michael Bay to direct.  For a guy that has been criticized for overdramatizing and filming ridiculously unbelievable events, I can’t help but think this was Bay’s nod to his critics.  It’s as if he went out of his way to find the most insane true story he could find, so at the very least, his naysayers couldn’t accuse him of being unrealistic.  As much as I enjoy the guilty pleasures that are Michael Bay’s films, I think I might like his attempt at real storytelling even more.


Video: PAIN & GAIN looks amazing on Blu-ray, with Michael Bay’s signature glossy film coming through perfectly.

Audio: The audio was equally impressive.

Unfortunately, there are no special features on this release.


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