Pain & Gain (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner29/08/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 129 mins

Stylishly directed and frequently hilarious, Pain & Gain is an enormously entertaining comedy thriller with a superb script and terrific central performances from Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson.

What's it all about?
Directed by Michael Bay, Pain & Gain is based on a true story and set in mid-90s Miami, Florida. Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo, a body-building obsessive and fitness trainer who's become insanely jealous of his wealthy clients, so he comes up with a scheme to kidnap obnoxious, obscenely rich businessman Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) and steal everything he has.

In need of some added muscle, Daniel ropes in his steroid-addicted co-worker Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and dim-witted born-again ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), but their scheme doesn't quite go as planned. Eventually, the trio set their sights on another victim, porn king Frank Griga (Michael Rispoli), but they're unaware that their antics have come to the attention of a private detective (Ed Harris).

The Good
The performances are excellent: Wahlberg has always been good at playing delusional meat-heads, but here he turns that performance up to eleven and the results are magnificent. Similarly, Dwayne Johnson delivers perhaps the best performance of his career so far as dopey coke-head Paul, while there's strong support from Anthony Mackie (who has a steroid-induced impotence-related subplot in which he marries his nurse, played by Rebel Wilson) and Tony Shalhoub, who's basically the world's least sympathetic kidnap victim.

Bay's fast-paced direction is enjoyably stylish throughout, throwing in all sorts of tricks and flourishes, as if seeking to prove himself after the CGI bombast of the Transformers movies. He also gets some big laughs with a few well-placed caption gags, such as, after a particularly stupid move from Paul, flashing up a caption that reads ‘This is STILL a true story...’

The Great
Pain & Gain’s script takes a series of darkly funny swipes at the American Dream, beginning with Daniel being fired up by a motivational course run by huckster Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong), who illustrates how successful his course is by boasting that he left his wife and children for seven gorgeous models; we laugh at Daniel's subsequent conviction that the American Dream completely entitles him to steal someone else's riches for himself, yet you can't help feeling that there's a sizeable part of the audience for this film that will take that at face value.

In addition, Bay orchestrates a number of stand-out sequences that are laugh-out-loud funny, most notably a sequence where Daniel, Adrian and a coked-to-the-gills Paul all attend a neighbourhood watch meeting. Similarly, the violence is also, for the most part, played for laughs, which makes this the very definition of a guilty pleasure, particularly when you remember the underlying reality of the story.

Worth seeing?
Ridiculously entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, Pain & Gain is enormous fun from start to finish, thanks to a superb script, stylish direction and flat-out wonderful comic performances from Wahlberg and Johnson. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Pain & Gain (15)
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Content updated: 17/12/2017 21:25

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