Pain & Gain


Bay does small and personal. With a bang

With a reported budget of just $26 million and not a robot in sight, Pain & Gain sees Michael Bay scale back. 

In his eyes, at least. As steroid-pumped as its dumb-bell protagonists, this so-bizarre-it-had-to-be-true tale may not be the sort of blockbuster he’s used to making. But the brash Bay staples – soft rock, snarling muscle cars and hot bikini bods – are all very much present and correct. 

Set in 1994, and based on a series ofMiami New Times articles, it stars Mark Wahlberg as Danny Lugo, manager of the Miami Sun gym, who’s desperate to live the American dream. 

He decides to kidnap a wealthy client – shady Colombian-American tycoon Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) – and extort him. 

Helping execute the plan are personal trainer Adrian (Anthony Mackie) and ex-con man-mountain Paul (Dwayne Johnson), a recovering addict who has found Jesus. 

With Lugo & Co as inept as the Fargo kidnappers, with the excessive ambitions of Al Pacino in Scarface, Pain & Gain is a vulgar mix of black comedy and ultra-violence – encapsulated in the scene where the trio try to run Kershaw over (Bay evocatively zooming in on his face with a tyre on it).

Running at a way-too-long 129 minutes, it’s arguably more pain than gain, not least because Bay expects us to root for a trio of unlikeable characters. 

Yet such is his frenzied, super-confident style, you get swept up despite yourself. One brilliant scene, with the action taking place simultaneously in adjacent rooms, sees the camera effortlessly yo-yoing between the two spaces, slipping in and out of keyholes and wall grates.

The performances are all suitably jacked-up, with an unhinged Johnson the stand-out. 

Fine support, too, from Ed Harris as a wily private detective and Rebel Wilson as Adrian’s blissfully ignorant nurse-cum-wife. 

What results may not be elegant or subtle, but if you’re ready for a spin in a particularly gaudy vehicle, this is for you.


Like all of Bay’s work, it’s over-the-top, brash and exhausting to watch. But like the lifestyle its characters aspire to, there’s an allure too.

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Film Details

User Reviews

    • FBJBottomley

      Aug 14th 2013, 15:21


      I wasn't keen on the film personally, I mean it was certainly a break in pace for Michael Bay but I would have rather seen a documentary on the subject than a masturbatory celebration of muscles and drugs. This film is far from terrible, in fact there are some inspired sequences and it is hypnotic at times but the tone is as messed up as the central (albeit committedly acted) onscreen trio. Not particularly funny or enjoyable but admittedly deeper in its aims, than some of Bay's recent flicks.

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    • GarthMarenghi

      Aug 17th 2013, 14:20

      A problem with the film is it asks us to take an interest in unlikeable characters, eh? That made me think - why are we all supposed to fawn over Wheatley's Kill List, then, when everyone in it is completely vile?

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    • clintmagnum

      Aug 18th 2013, 12:37


      The problem with this movie, as opposed to Kill List, is that it is a true story. For that reason alone I found myself unable to laugh at the decapitation and torture scenes, when it occurred less than 20yrs ago and the families of the victims are still alive. Is there no moral code at all to Hollywood?

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    • CharsmatcEngma

      Aug 19th 2013, 8:46

      @clint, so what you're saying is it would be ok to make this if all the relatives were dead? It being made because its a bonkers/interesting story. People are still alive from WWII yet their stories are still being told, should be stop that too? Don't be so bloody sensitive. Seems hollywood can't win much these days. People complain because they make a movie about something that happened 18 years ago. They complain when a movie has something in it that mimics real life (Phonebooth had to be postponed due to people complaining it mimicing real life, even Man Of Steel had some complaints because of the tornado scene, despite the scene being made well in advance of the Moore tornado). The fact it happened less than 20 years ago shouldnt matter. A good story is a good story, to simply criticise the movie because of when the actual events took place seems weak.

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    • Ali1748

      Aug 31st 2013, 20:13

      Check out Mark Kermode's review, he goes on a full rant lol.

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    • matthewbrady

      Sep 11th 2013, 21:27


      didn't like it

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