"The event you are about to see took place in Miami Florida between October 1994 and June 95. Unfortunately, this is a true story."
Michael Bay decided to take a break from his latest big budget movies (Transformers, Armageddon, and Pearl Harbor) and pursue something much smaller. Pain and Gain is based on a true story, but it adds all the Hollywood condiments to make it suitable for moviegoers. First off all you get three likable actors like Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), and Anthony Mackie to play three criminals who really don't look anything like the real people involved in these crimes. I guess Bay was trying to get us to sympathize a little with these people despite their horrific acts. There's another thing Bay always does in his movies (big or small) and that is to include a gorgeous actress. In this case he got Bar Paly to play an inexistent role or at least I really never understood what she was doing here or why these men needed her. Bay also turns the victim here into a very unlikable character. I wonder how he or his family feel about this movie considering his kidnappers were just portrayed as some dumb bodybuilders who just wanted to take a shortcut to achieve the American dream. I really didn't have a problem with any of this, I just don't like the way Hollywood keeps on claiming films are based on true stories when they are only inspired by them. This dark criminal comedy didn't really work for me despite the strong cast. One of my major issues had to do with the length of the film; it just seems to drag forever. This would've worked much better as a 90 minute movie. The second problem is that the more you are reminded that the film is based on a true story (it reminds us midway though the film) the less funny and more messed up it gets. I'm not a Michael Bay hater, I liked Armageddon, The Island, Pearl Harbor, and the first Transformer, but I just didn't seem to care too much about this movie. I think Wahlberg and Johnson are great actors, but they didn't really seem to fit the part here.
Pain and Gain starts off by introducing us to Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a personal fitness trainer at a Miami gym. He is all about achieving the American dream and being patriotic. Somehow he sees himself as better than most Americans because of the way he has built his body. What he has in muscles, he seems to lack in brains. Although he has tripled the amount of customers that go to his boss's (Rob Corddry) gym so he seems to know a thing or two about business. His other partners at the gym, Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) are even dumber. Adrian has used so much steroids that he is now suffering from the side effects, and Doyle is a former coke addict who is trying to reform his life. Daniel is so desperate to live the American dream that he convinces Adrian and Paul to kidnap a client at the gym (played by Tony Shalhoub) and steal his possessions. He believes they can get away with it, but things begin to get out of hand for these amateurs so the plot begins to get more and more complicated as the film moves on.
The incompetence of these criminals and the incompetence of the Miami police force is really what Bay is trying to make fun of here, but considering there were real victims involved it is hard to laugh at what is going on. As likable as Wahlberg and Johnson are, and as hateful as their victim is you kind of want them to get away with the crime. Bay kind of tries to pull our strings here because what these three men actually did is nothing we should be rooting for. Insisting that it is a real story only makes things more difficult for the viewer because somehow you feel sorry for these criminals because of how inept and dumb they are. The voiceover narrations that Bay implements in the story with every character doesn't work either (he should take some notes from Scorsese). The entire tone of the film just didn't work for me. I thought the film began well but just went downhill from then on. Skip this.