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[Article] Pain & Gain (2013)

When it comes to Michael Bay, we all know him as a director who obsesses with lots of explosions, quick cuts, and sunset silhouette. Plus, he’s famous for making quick cash from directing bad flicks. But then I heard lots of reviewers praise his 2013 movie called Pain & Gain. I mean, it’s unbelievable that Mr. Bay makes a good movie (well, besides original Bad Boys). But, hey, this movie is R-Rated, based on true story, has only few explosions, and these guys love it….


So I decide to watch it…and, holy crap, I have to say that it’s the modern version of Scarface.

The plot
Daniel Lugo (played by Mark Wahlberg) is an ultra-ambitious guy who works as a trainer at Sun Gym. He believes in American dream and wants to improve his life. So, after listen to motivational speaker, he decides to kidnap his rich client, Victor Kershaw, and torture him until Victor signs documents that legally gives Daniel assets. But he knows that he can’t work alone, so he let Adrian (played by Anthony Mackie) and ex-criminal who becomes “Christian” again named Paul (played by The Rock) to join the team. Of course, they become rich and Victor is almost get killed. Luckily, conflicts in their life will slowly kill them and teach them valuable lessons.

Scarface of modern era? Are you kidding?
No. It’s THAT good in terms of story telling. That’s why I totally shocked when I see that critics at Rotten Tomatoes hate it. This is NOT an ordinary action-comedy stereotype. All of characters have motivation to improve their life…just like an American Dream motto that everybody can improve their life by working hard. Let’s take a look at our heroes motivation…

– Daniel: Wants to be rich and successful, so he does everything that motivational speaker tells him…get a goal, get a plan, and get up of your ass.
– Adrian: Hates his minimum wage job and wants to be successful, although, to be honest, he’s the stupidest guy when the gang has to do important missions. But luckily, Daniel is his role model.
– Paul: Wants to start a new life by having faith in God. Unfortunately, he has to get involve in criminal activities again.

As you can see, these guys represent the problem of modern mindset of successful: being rich no matter how they got to that point. Daniel even admits that one of his favorite films is Scarface. Now that’s a bad role model to choose from. Tony Montana is rich and successful by doing illegal activities. Then, these things slowly kill him. And speaking of role model….

“Sympathize with the killers?”
Real-life survivors from the debacle are pretty angry at this film. One of them say that the film is too sympathetic to the killer. To me, this is not true. It’s like when people see Easy Rider* and say that both heroes shouldn’t get killed in the end, although they show us in the beginning that they are drug dealers. In Pain & Gain’s case, the gang choose the wrong way at the beginning by deciding to kidnap someone to get money. Paul even says in the beginning that he doesn’t want to do it. But after he almost kills a gay priest, he has no choice but to escape.

There might be comedic moments there and there, but, in my opinion, this film is Scarface meets Snatch. I mentioned the Scarface part before, but what about the Snatch part of this film? Well, our criminals are idiots who lack experience and believe that “no pain, no gain”. Unfortunately, they are totally careless, self-centered, and destroy them selves in the end.

Bad things in this film.
There are two things I hate about Pain & Gain. First, the rotation camera angle is annoying as hell. Then, the dialog. It isn’t as memorable as it should be.

But overall, this film is definitely worth watching. It’s not only proves that Michael Bay can make a fun/good movie, it proves that the “get rich however you can” mindset won’t easily die from our society….until we appreciate that “successful” doesn’t always mean “you have to be rich”.

Thumbs up.

* I’ll write my analysis of Easy Rider soon. Watch this space…

About The Author
Nuttawut Permphithak
Nuttawut Permphithak
A student who's studying in marketing. He usually spends his free-time on watching movies, listening to music, reading books, and creating things you're probably reading/listening right now.
  • Scott A. McArthur
    July 16, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    The only thing that’s really good about this movie is Dwayne Johnson. The rest is the typical vacuous, repugnant garbage that Michael Bay seems to have the inability to create anything besides. The film has nothing to say beyond, “let’s laugh at stupid people,” and the end result is one the most soul-sucking, disgusting experiences in cinematic history; and is the moment where it is proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Bay is one of the worst film makers ever.

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