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Pain & Gain - Film Review

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by Mieka Black (subscribe)
I'm a writer/blogger living in Adelaide, check my blog out at passthegeek.com
Published August 29th 2013
Please note this review contains spoilers.


"My name is Daniel Lugo and I believe in fitness" is what Daniel Lugo (portrayed by Mark Walhberg) says as the film opens to his capture, moments before we're flashed back to a few months prior. Pain & Gain is about Lugo's obsession and desire for his perception of the 'American dream'.

We see that Lugo is a schemer, who served time for conning people via Medicare fraud, after release he begins working for John Mese, owner of the Sun Gym. Lugo boasts he can increase the gym's membership by triple the amount within six weeks and leads us off on a speech about desiring more and achieving more. We see Lugo's lust for a high earning lifestyle when he begins to train Victor Kershaw (portrayed by Tony Shalhoub).

Lugo's eye is caught by a motivational speaker called Johnny Wu (portrayed by Ken Jeong) and is persuaded to become a 'doer'. This one self-help seminar sends Lugo on the path of future criminal acts when he devises a plan to kidnap and extort Kershaw, believing he is a crook and undeserving.

Lugo joins forces with two fellow weightlifters, Adrian Doorbal (portrayed by Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (portrayed by Dwayne Johnson). Adrian is a fellow trainer at the Sun Gym, a body-builder and a frequent user of steroids which has left his manhood inactive. It is his impotency that persuades Adrian to team up with Daniel Lugo as the cost to correct the effects of the steroids is expensive. Paul is not so easily swayed in his decision to join. Being a previous cocaine-addicted convict, Paul found religion in the big house and has a rather 'gentle giant' persona. He only caves into the idea after a violent altercation between him and the priest who has helped him seek redemption.

The trio fumbles over the kidnapping of Kershaw multiple times before finally succeeding when they incapacitate him with a taser outside of the deli that he owns. They take Kershaw to a warehouse in which they attempt to conceal their voices, only for Kershaw to recognise Lugo because of his potent cheap cologne.
The plan succeeds even if not entirely in the manner they'd originally planned for it to be executed and the gang end up with all of Kershaw's money and assets. They however come to the revelation that releasing Kershaw would not be in their best interests. They concoct a plan to kill him in a way that looks like an accident, however they fail miserably.

The trio live in happy bliss for a time. Daniel takes over Kershaw's home and builds himself a nice suburban lifestyle, Adrian fixes his impotence and Paul lives the highlife with his stripper girlfriend, falling back into the cocaine addiction. Kershaw however not believed by the police, contacts a private investigator (portrayed by Ed Harris) who helps him out, even with how bizarre his story sounds aloud.

It's thanks to some light investigation and another attempt at extortion that the boys are undone. We see all the men get caught and put to trial. Paul Doyle cracks after an attack of the conscience. He confesses and testifies against Lugo and Doorbal and is sentenced to 15 years in prison, serves seven and goes free. Lugo and Doorbal receive the death sentence.

The film is easily described as a dramatic comedy. It flows well and offers a lot of comedic value to a relatively horrific story. It's hard to think of the events that occur as real events but despite some creative liberties given, it's pretty accurate. The largest difference between the true story and the film are the main characters. Dwayne Johnson's character Paul Doyle is a fictional character in the story based primarily off of the real Jorge Delgado with parts of Carl Weekes and Mario Sanchez, all left out of the films story. In the film, Lugo passes Sorina Luminita onto Paul, in reality Sorina was really Sabina Petrescu and Lugo and Sabina never broke up, in fact the two were engaged and fled to the Bahamas together alongside Lugo's parents. Kershaw or his real life counterpart, Marc Schiller was born in Argentina, not Colombia as the film portrays. There are other conflicting instances between the film and story but none cause conflict with enjoying the film.

If you're a fan of crime films, this is one not to miss. Its trailer gives hint to a light-hearted film however so when watching for the first time, do not be shocked if it's darker than originally depicted.



Movie Length: 129 Minutes
Rated: R
Genre: Crime, Comedy, Drama
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Why? Because who doesn't love a good crime flick
Where: In cinemas
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