Movie review: 'Pain & Gain' wallows in violence


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Reminding moviegoers that "unfortunately this is a true story," as "Pain & Gain" does, is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, you think, what knuckleheads these guys are but, on the other, you are reminded that they kidnapped, tortured, killed and dismembered a couple of real people in the mid-'90s. That takes the fun out of the film, even if Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson are flying high as Sun Gym denizens who think they can steal their way to wealth.


'Pain & Gain'

2 stars = Mediocre
Ratings explained

  • Starring:

    Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson.

  • Rating:

    R for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use.


Mr. Wahlberg is ringleader Daniel Lugo who enlists Mr. Mackie's Adrian Doorbal and The Rock's Paul Doyle in a plot to kidnap a wealthy, odious Miami businessman (Tony Shalhoub). They plot to strip him of everything he owns, from his luxurious home and offshore account to his businesses and even family.

He seems invincible, which is not a trait shared by others they target. It all eventually leads to the longest, most expensive case ever tried by the state's attorney's office in Florida with 100-plus witnesses and 10,000 pieces of evidence.

That is according to Miami New Times, which chronicled the case of the Sun Gym Gang in a widely read series by Pete Collins that inspired the movie. Michael Bay directs with characteristic energy and style and lets an ad-libbing Rebel Wilson as a naughty nurse steal her scenes.

But no matter how fast Mr. Wahlberg talks or how much Mr. Johnson's character falls from grace or how buff Mr. Mackie gets, "Pain & Gain" is no "Fargo," which wore its violence and black humor as a badge. Other than Ed Harris in a small role as a private investigator, "Pain & Gain" gives the audience no one to gleefully root for -- before or after the chain saw comes out.

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.


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