Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Interesting and Confusing
You know a movie based on a true story is good when you are compelled to research the accuracy of the film upon watching it. Some are almost scary as to how accurate the film tends to be, regardless of how impossible it initially seems. Those films are hard not to love. There are also campy horror films that say inspired by a true story…that may be, but what is actually true about it? Was it that many years ago, a group of kids sat around a fire listening to ghost stories and heard a strange animal in the distance? Movies tend to take these small facts and create a movie based on things like the campfire story (and expanded on events, creating things that never happened). Filmmakers are allowed to, and often use these small facts to create what they call a “true story”. Pain and Gain is a true story, and if you took the time to research the accuracy, you’d simply find that they didn’t keep in all of the facts, but did they make anything up? Not really.
This film centers on Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a body builder that just sees himself as a doer. According to the film, a self-help seminar run by Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong) convinced Daniel that all he ever had to do was don’t be a don’ter and do be a doer…in layman’s terms, do what you want and ignore the consequences. So Daniel gathers his buddy Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and convinces them to help him kidnap weathly businessman, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), and force him to hand over every last bit of his assets. After a few scenes of torture, he does so, and the movie then shifts gears and focusses on the police side of the case.
The first thing that you are going to realize about the movie is that it is incredibly bizarre. It gives new light into the idea of stupid criminals and the stupid evil henchmen that you typically see in an old Disney cartoon. These guys are so egotistical and so naïve to think they can actually get away with taking the man’s entire assets. Think about it, Lugo wanted his house…his HOUSE. Just imagine the conversation – give me all your money…and your house. All you have to do is tell the cops exactly where to find the culprit. Don’t get me wrong, the criminals were at least smart enough to forge a notary republic stamp, making the deal legal and binding. Also, just the idea that these three large-muscled men are staging such an act is outrageous, but it somehow works on its own.
The humor in the movie is so dark, but so hilarious at the same time. Dwayne Johnson’s character, Doyle, was a reformed Christian that was blessed by God with certain skills, like “knocking someone the f&#k out”, or even grilling dismembered body parts on the street corner while waving to a neighbor (this is when the movie reminds its viewers that it’s a true story). The true story element really adds to the effect of how grotesquely humorous it really is. There is one problem though; we have a very hard time figuring out who the “main character” is in terms of antagonist and protagonist.
At first, it seemed obvious that Mark Wahlberg was the central focus of the movie, but somewhere around the halfway point of the film, everything switches gears. Basically, we are now watching a private investigator do his job, and we are watching Kershaw’s reactions to everything negative that happens…no one seems to be a good guy here. It’s not only that, but Dwayne Johnson has an inconsistent acting style in the movie. One minute, he is talking as he normally would in any other movie, and then you are expecting his next lines to be primitive two-word sentences like “Me Tarzan, You Jane”, or “Hulk smash”.
The direction of the film is also confusing. No one has a set goal, even the characters mention something about winging it in the latter half of the film. For the most part, they have a goal in the beginning and then they have a goal near the end, but at the same time the…other guys have a goal too. I say “other guys” because there doesn’t seem to be any real distinction between who is supposedly the good guy, and who is the bad guy.
It definitely has its faults, but at the same time…it really does have hilarious scenes. Even if the theater only has two other people, you will realize that they both probably laugh at the same scene. It has positives, don’t forget that. If you are looking for a laugh, but not much more than that, check out Pain & Gain for its unique taste on dark humor.
Pain & Gain came to theaters on Friday, April 26. Check it out today!