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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Edition No 894 

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PAIN & GAIN

SYNOPSIS:
Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict bodybuilder Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), a devout Christian. They bungle their way into trying to kidnap obnoxious millionaire, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), and to force him to sign over his wealth to them. Easier said than done, especially for these bozos. (Based on a true story)

Review by Louise Keller:
The promise of Mark Wahberg wearing his Calvin Klein underwear, a Kiss the Cook apron and shower cap as he wields a chainsaw over dead bodies, might have delivered a juicy black comedy but somehow the ludicrous nature of all the elements is swamped by Michael Bay's elephantine direction. Bodybuilders, kidnapping and the best laid plans that unravel as the three muscly gym junkies trip over themselves with stupidity as they pursue the trail of the American dream. Amazingly, the story with elements as diverse as a detached digit, a purple Lamborghini, breast implants and a greyhound is based on a true story - although Bay's representation gees up the action in such a way that credibility falls by the wayside.

One of the curious elements of the film is the way the story assumes the point of view of different characters. While this approach allows for an insight into different mindsets, there is also an alienating factor, as we ricochet from character to character - like a stray bullet trying to find its mark. One thing is for sure: there are pecs to spare among the three central characters whose addiction to exercise becomes part of the debauchery.

It all begins at a Get Rich seminar, where a Ken Jeong's amusing motivational speaker Johnny Wu enthuses Mark Wahlberg's Daniel Lugo to be a Doer, not a Don't-er, setting him on a pathway of dreams to riches, albeit relying on acquiring someone else's. Wahlberg looks as though he is working terribly hard in the role. Dwayne Johnson is amusing as Paul Doyle, who loves Jesus and cocaine seemingly in equal doses, delivering the film's most sympathetic character. However, there are contradictions that rub against the grain, like the scene in which he is convinced to kill the hostage. Anthony Mackie is Adrian Doorbal, whose steroid-induced impotence leads him in the direction of Rebel Wilson's coy but outspoken specialist nurse, who delivers some priceless moments. As for other characters, Tony Shalhoub has a pretty rough time of it as the wealthy Victor Kershaw and it is good to see Ed Harris on screen again as the private eye who discovers that catching fish in retirement is not as interesting as he imagined.

With all its diverse and outrageous elements, the film should play its black elements with far more humour and bite; the tone changes irreparably through the exposition, which quickly prompts disconnect. All in all, there is plenty of pain and little gain in this heavily laced Bay epic that ticks over the two hour mark and leaves us brow beaten and weary instead of incredulous and entertained.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
As strange as any true story, Pain & Gain is based on the exploits of three gym junkies in mid 90s Miami who try to achieve through crime what they can't through hard work or smarts. It all starts when a new customer Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) comes to the gym run by Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) and inadvertently reveals his wealth. Logo thinks Kershaw should share it ... well, not so much share it as hand it all over to Lugo and Lugo's newly recruited accomplices, fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict bodybuilder Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), a devout Christian.

Michael Bay tells this story like a black comedy; not noir, Bay doesn't do noir. He does noisy. And the story certainly is black and the comedic juices are well squeezed out of every opportunity, including management of corpses, error-riddled attempts at murder and king size stupidity. As gruesome as some of the material is, Bay keeps it in check - just - but he never misses an opportunity to add plenty of tits & ass, of which there is ample in Miami's gymland and clubland.

The cast is fully charged and well up to this task, with Mark Wahlberg leading the trio in his determined, stubborn way, having taken to heart the lessons of self help guru Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong) who divides people into doers and don'ters. Once convinced of his can do attitude, Lugo assumed he actually can do. But kidnapping and extortion are not as easy as he thinks.

His two sidekicks are great fun, with Dwayne Johnson especially entertaining as the Jesus freak who can't keep off the coke - just when it is the most self destructive. Tony Shalhoub is the long suffering Kershaw who gets beaten up, tied up, shot up and blown up and maintains his defiance. Before things go really bad, Kershaw find a private investigator in an old yellow pages who has retired ... but comes sniffing round anyway. Ed Harris is great in this role as the PI who shames the cops into doing something.

Rebel Wilson has a lot of fun with her character, Robin, a nurse who gets to do some penis jokes that fit right into the story. The beauty of all this is that even if only half of it has any semblance to the true story, it's outrageously incredible - which is what makes it work. The target markets of body builders, gays and young men wanting to catch all the flesh will probably outnumber the numbskull crims in the cinema queues.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

PAIN & GAIN (MA15+)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Bar Paly, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, Michael Rispoli, Peter Stormare

PRODUCER: Michael Bay, Ian Bryce, Donald De Line

DIRECTOR: Michael Bay

SCRIPT: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (magazine articles by Pete Collins)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Seresin

EDITOR: Thomas A. Muldoon, Joel Negron

MUSIC: Steve Jablonsky

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jeffrey Beecroft

RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 8, 2013







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