The Ninjabot


Posted on April 25, 2013 at 10:13 am by David "Snackbar" Edmundson

pain and gain

Pain and Gain is based on a true story that follows a couple of fitness freaks as they try to change their lot in life by stealing from a deplorable millionaire. The film is a stark departure from the explosion factory that is a typical Michael Bay film, but is that a good or bad thing? In the end, it’s both.

Pain and Gain is a stranger than fiction true story that took place in Miami in 1995. The story follows Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a personal trainer trying to find a way out of the daily grind. When he meets Viktor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), an unbearable and wealthy businessman with no redeeming qualities, he decides that the world isn’t fair and that he is more deserving than the vile Kershaw.

After being inspired by a great motivational conference put on by Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong) Daniel decides that he’s a “doer,” and not a “don’t-er.” He enlists his friend and co-worker Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to kidnap Kershaw and force him to give them all of his stuff. After they concoct their plan, they decide they need a third person for the team. Enter Pat Doyle (Dwayne Johnson).

Just released from prison, Pat is a former coke head who found Jesus and weights in prison. He reluctantly agrees to help on the caveat that no one gets hurt. The initial snatch and grab is fun to watch, as these amateurs botch and miss their target again and again. There’s a real Ocean’s Eleven vibe at this point in the film. Sure, they’re doing something bad, but they’re so likable you can’t help but root for them.

pain and gain

When they abduct Kershaw, the wheels fall off the cart. Once Kershaw identifies Daniel, the character and the film’s dynamic changes drastically. He becomes mean and violent and turns you against him. You’re still not rooting for the despicable Kershaw, but you don’t want Daniel to get the money either. It’s weird when you are watching a film with no “good” guy. You can enjoy the film on several merits for a while, but eventually, with no one to root for, you just stop caring what happens. I won’t spoil the third act, but it is so out there that they actually remind you that this is a true story, and that they couldn’t make this up if they tried.

pain and gain

There are a lot of characters in the film, and a lot of the story is told through voice over with eight different characters narrating the story at some point. Of the leads, Johnson steals the show, hands down (a pun you’ll get when you see the film). He maintains his likability throughout the film and provides endless humor. Whether it’s him quarantined in a warehouse full of sex toys, or his attempts to convert Kershaw from Judaism, Johnson is always a delight.

Wahlberg does what he can, but being based on a true story, there’s not a lot he can do to impact his character’s arc. Wahlberg’s main talent in films is that he is extremely likable. He’s the nice guy, not the guy beating people up and stealing their money. The supporting cast varies as well. Ken Jeong shines in the small role of Johnny Wu, a motivational speaker who left his wife and kids so he could have seven women and a boat. The normally entertaining Rob Corddry and Rebel Wilson seem lackluster, though, in their roles as fitness club owner and erectile corrective nurse respectively. I’m staring to believe the hype that Michael Bay just can’t direct woman. He hasn’t given a strong role to a female since Gabrielle Union in Bad Boys 2.

The film is very schizophrenic and seems to have trouble deciding on a theme. Because if this, it also feels about 20 minutes too long. The ending could have simply been tied up with the standard text description that every other “based on actual events” films use to tell us where the characters are now. Instead we are shown half of it, and then we are also treated to the text portion before the credits.


All things considered the film doesn’t live up to the hype. While Johnson shines and gives his best performance to date, the characters and themes within give the audience no one to root for or identify with. In the end, we don’t really care what happens to any if them.

Snackbar’s Grade: C+ (thanks to Johnson)

What do you think? Have you seen it? Let us know in the comments below.

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    • Stewart

      How unfortunate. I was really looking forward to this film.

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