Blu-ray Review: Pain & Gain

Pain & Gain Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Paramount | DIRECTOR: Michael Bay | CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Rob Corddry, Ed Harris, Ken Jeong, Peter Stormare
DIGITAL RELEASE DATE: 8/13/2013, BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 8/27/2013 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.99
BONUSES: digital copy
SPECS: R | 129 min. | Crime comedy | 16×9 aspect ratio | 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio | English, French, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Pain & GainThis might sound like a joke, but comedy crime movie Pain & Gain is director Michael Bay’s (Transformers Dark of the Moon) best movie in the last few years and one of the best movies of his career.

In Pain & Gain, Bay follows the bizarre story of three bodybuilders who try to get the American dream by kidnapping a wealthy client. Mark Wahlberg (Ted) plays the ring leader, Daniel Lugo, who’s inspired by get-rich-quick guru Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong, The Hangover Part 2) to take what he needs no matter what it takes.

Lugo recruits fellow bodybuilders Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie, Gangster Squad) and Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) to kidnap Lugo’s wealthy gym client Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub, Men in Black II). As a victim, Victor turns out to be tougher than Lugo figured, however, and the bodybuilders’ plans go from bad to worse to worst.

Many critics panned this film, but I agree with those who praised it, especially Newark Star-Ledger critic Stephen Whitty, who echoed my feeling that Pain & Gain “may be the best movie Michael Bay’s ever made.” It’s technically better and more entertaining than all the Transformers films put together.

The story in Pain & Gain is utterly ridiculous. As far as criminals go, the bodybuilders are completely inept, and the only thing bigger than their mistakes are their egos. But the amazing thing about the story is — it’s based on a real life incident. Yep, these three, can I say, idiots, really did all this.

And Bay reminds viewers of this a number of times throughout the movie, telling us how accurate he’s keeping the film. At one point, near the end of act two and in the middle of a fast-paced action scene, a caption pops up on the screen reminding us again. Ordinarily, this is a big no-no in storytelling. It’s a giant neon sign that says to viewers: “This is just a movie” and pulls us away from the story and away from the whole purpose of the magic of movies. But in Pain & Gain, it works quite brilliantly, allowing viewers to stop looking at the screen in amazement and laugh out loud.

Bay tells the story quite lovingly, in his own way. It’s obvious that he has an appreciation for the ridiculousness of this true-life tale, and he doesn’t fall back on his usual tricks, like sunset images and overblown story like he does in Pearl Harbor and countless others, instead just letting the story roll and the dominoes fall where they will.

In fact, the weakest part of Pain & Gain is Wahlberg, who takes his role far too seriously and leaves it feeling a less than satisfying. Shalhoub is the clear standout, brilliantly portraying the extremely unlikeable victim who seems to have nine lives. Johnson is also surprisingly good as a straight out of prison thug who feels terrible about all the crime he’s still doing, and Ed Harris (The Way Back) is fabulous as the grizzled private investigator who brings the bodybuilders’ spree to a final end. Anthony Mackie is fine, but wasted in his role.

The movie looks and sounds grand on Blu-ray high-definition, but the combo disc set comes sans any special features, just a downloadable digital copy via UltraViolet. But if outrageous, larger-than-life (but in this case true to life) crime movies are your thing, give this one a try.

 

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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.