– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Pain-Gain-MovieMichael Bay is back. And that’s in a good way.

Bay directed a true story film about the notorious group called the Sun Gym gang who performed a couple of kidnappings during the mid-1990s. They were comprised of three gym buffs named Daniel Lugo, Paul Doyle and Adrian Doorbal (played by Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie respectively). The trio, led by Lugo, would kidnap a local businessman to torture and steal his millions of dollars. During this kidnapping process, these meatheads would make mistake after mistake after mistake. With so many mistakes and trail of evidence, the local police would not even believe the kidnapped victim that a crime actually occurred.

The escaped kidnapped victim Victor Kershaw (played by Tony Shalhoub) hired a detective Ed Du Bois (played by Ed Harris) to track down these kidnappers. The three friends left sizable bread crumbs of evidence for the detective to trace by buying vehicles, houses and money on strippers. And then finally, the gang decided to strike again with another rich local businessman, but severely botched the operation by accidentally killing the businessman and his wife. With that incidence, it led to a police investigation and a pursuit to take down the Sun Gym gang.

Most of the credit for this film will go to Bay.The movie is a good mix with action and comedy. The bungling idiotic portrayal the gang seems so far-fetched that you wouldn’t believe it was based on a true story. Of course, the characters may be exaggerated for the film.

This is the side of Michael Bay I enjoy. “Pain & Gain” is his low-budget film, which it was estimated approximately around $25 million for production. That’s unusual with his mega-budget activities previously with the “Transformers” franchise.

Bay returned to his roots of what he did well with movies pre-Pearl Harbor days. The style, feel and comedy were reminders of his movie “Bad Boys.” This is the Michael Bay film that I wanted to see and waited for a long time.

There is great chemistry between the cast, especially with Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg. Johnson is developing himself to be a great actor by playing a born-again Christian who has second thoughts about the criminal activities. And Walhberg’s portrayal of Lugo is believable as a personal fitness trainer who leads the Sun Gym gang through two botched kidnappings.

The biggest kudos will be to Tony Shaloub for his portrayal of the first kidnapped victim, Victor Kershaw (name was changed to protect the original identity of the victim). His character is tortured, tormented and suffered to a point that you’ll laugh and feel sorry for him at the same time.

The biggest drawback may be the graphic scenes portrayed in the film, including the torture and disposal of dead bodies. It is a bit extreme, but it is an accurate portrayal of the real story.

Overall, the movie is original and refreshing. And yes, this is the Michael Bay film I’ve been waiting for.

Pain & Gain will be released in theaters next Friday on April 26.


Video review if you prefer to watch and listen below.

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.