Film Review: Pain & Gain (MA15+) (USA, 2013)

Michael Bay suffers a heavy stigma from the backlash against his grandiose, CGI-fests; yet despite nit-picking critics, he remains a highly skilled director who artfully plays with gorgeous shots of Miami to liven up what is essentially a very dark story in his latest blockbuster. The film – based on a true story – is simply about three gym junkies, dosed up on roid rage and cheesy self-help, who mistakenly believe that they can rob rich guys and get away with it. They obviously can’t, and they obviously don’t.

With a clear tongue-in-cheek, black comedy approach to meat-headed crime, Pain & Gain delivers on the laughs once you get past the first quarter, but ultimately ends as a slightly above average (and very entertaining) look at three very dumb, desperate fools and their well-deserved downfall.

A buff Mark Wahlberg is Daniel Lugo, a motivated personal trainer who has a rich jerk (Tony Shalhoub) for a client. This rich jerk won’t stop bragging about his life, so in a moment of personal reflection – brought on by self-help guru Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong) – and a realisation that he wants to be a do-er and not a don’t-er, Lugo decides to kidnap his client. As such, he clumsily recruits Adrian (Anthony Mackie) and Paul (Dwayne Johnson, both fellow bodybuilders who are just as impulsive, and assures them that things will go smoothly.

Things don’t go smoothly and pretty soon we are given hilarious attempts at track-covering with some respectable performances from everyone involved, especially Johnson as he (surprisingly) steals the show with his gentle giant, coke-addicted character.

The pacing of this movie is unexpected, getting the whole kidnapping and extortion out of the way before our anti-heroes decide that crime must be their forte. So when Ed Harris steps in as private eye Ed Dubois, the boys are already far in over their half-witted heads, and their refusal to accept an end is what destroys them. Perhaps they would have been better served re-listening to Johnny Wu’s idea of habit: “Do you know why habit rhymes with rabbit? ‘Cause your whole life disappears down a bunny hole”

The use of voice-over narration here, from multiple characters, is one of the most effective devices employed and gives insight into the (lacking) thinking process Lugo and his cronies go through to make the blunders they make.

Despite a disappointing end, the laughs provided are well worth the two-hour-plus film and put Pain & Gain as one of the better action-comedies to emerge in recent years.


Runtime: 129 Minutes.

Pain & Gain is currently screening in cinemas nationwide, the trailer can found here


This content has recently been ported from its original home on The Iris and may have formatting errors – images may not be showing up, or duplicated, and galleries may not be working. We are slowly fixing these issue. If you spot any major malfunctions making it impossible to read the content, however, please let us know at editor AT

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.