Michael Bay is known for making big-budget action-films like Bad Boys and Transformers, for upwards of a few hundred million; so it was surprising to hear that he had signed on to do Paramount Pictures’ latest low-budget comedy, Pain & Gain. Based on a series of true events that occurred in Miami in 1994, the storyline follows three bodybuilders from a local gym that believe they’re entitled to everything America has to offer.
Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a personal trainer who wants more out of life than a sh*tty apartment and a used car, one day attends a self-help seminar where he gets inspired by a motivational speaker, and decides its time for a change. His plan? Kidnap one of his wealthy clients, torture him to death, then, force him to overturn his finances. The victim is Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) a sleazy entrepreneur/owner of a successful deli franchise. To initiate the operation, he recruits two of his co-workers, Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) – a reformed ex-con/coke-fiend/born-again-Christian – and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), a steroid-abuser who could use some extra cash to correct his erectile disorder. The problem is these three dumbbells lack the brainpower needed to execute this get-rich-quick scheme, and it takes them weeks before they can even capture their target.
On paper, the premise sounds hilarious, but when you think about the idea in hindsight it’s pretty upsetting to create a film like this. The fact Michael Bay would entertain the thought of finding humor in a story involving such heinous acts of crime, where innocent lives were lost, isn’t anything to laugh about. And while there are many screenplays centered on murder, it’s a topic that should be taken seriously rather than made fun of. What’s more, given that moviegoers 17 and older are allowed to see “Pain & Gain” without a parent, it should be pointed out that while this re-interpretation of the Schiller vs. Sun Gym murder case is solely for entertainment purposes, its almost as if Paramount is advocating drug-abuse, extortion and murder. And since the picture is set in ’94, one can infer that millennials are the film studio’s targeted demographic; and with that in mind, I can’t help but fear that young adults might get the wrong message.
When producing a narrative that boasts a title called Pain & Gain, you’d expect that with a little determination, hard work and maybe even a little pain, someone would get a decent return on their investment, but after two hours inside the theater viewers will realize that Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script is all pain and no gain for any of the characters once the credits roll.