Susan Granger’s review of “Pain & Gain” (Paramount Pictures)
“Unfortunately, this is a true story,” begins the narration…
Inspired by self-help guru Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong), Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a personal trainer at Miami Lakes’ Sun Gym, is determined to carve himself a chunk of the American Dream, even if he has to steal it. So when multimillionaire Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) surfaces as a new client, Lugo decides to kidnap him and usurp all his South Beach business interests.
In order to accomplish this, Lugo recruits two misguided accomplices: Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), a bodybuilding co-worker who’s struggling with impotence caused by steroids, and Attica ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a devout, born-again Christian with cocaine-abuse issues. But after the ambitious muscle-bound trio abduct and torture Kershaw in an abandoned dry-cleaning plant over a period of 30 days, forcing him to sign over all his assets, including cars, a local deli franchise and a huge McMansion in an exclusive gated community, the combative Colombian-American hires a retired cop/private detective, Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris), to track them down and try to convince the incompetent Dade County police that a heinous crime actually occurred.
Working from a barely serviceable screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (“Chronicles of Narnia, “Captain America: the First Avenger”), based on Pete Collins’1999 Miami NewTimes articles about the Sun Gym gang, featuring a veritable tag-team of voice-over recitations, director Michael Bay (“Transformers” trilogy, “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor,” “The Island,” “Bad Boys”) re-interprets this true crime story as a quirky, chaotic, dunderhead comedy caper that’s loaded with viciously graphic violence.
Although Bay describes this as a “small movie,” shot in South Florida on a $26 million budget, nearly every woman in this misguided, misogynistic mess is depicted as a sex object, although Rebel Wilson manages to steal some scenes as Adrian’s clueless nurse girlfriend. In conjunction, Mark Wahlberg is also promoting his own line of fitness supplements called Marked Nutrition.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Pain & Gain” flexes in with an offensive 4, inflicting much pain for little gain.