Truth is almost always stranger than fiction and no more so than with the true story of the 'Sun Gym Gang'. Centered around a series of newspaper articles about the kidnapping, extortion, torture and murder of several victims by the 'Sun Gym' gang that included a number of bodybuilders, "Pain & Gain" tells the story of the ultimate perversion of the American dream and three men who couldn't achieve it no matter how smart they thought that they were and is now available in a Special Collector's Edition Blu-Ray.
Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a regular bodybuilder who works at the Sun Gym along with his friend Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie). Neither man is the sharpest pencil in the drawer, but both are ultimately sick of living in the poor house and want their piece of the American Dream. Inspired by motivational speaker Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong), Lugo concocts a plan to kidnap Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), a regular at the gym who’s a rich, spoiled businessman, and take everything he has by any means necessary. With the help of a born-again and sober ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), the 'Sun Gym Gang' successfully gets Kershaw to sign over all his finances by means of kidnap and torture. Things take a dark turn as the gang decide they have to murder Kershaw. But when he survives the attempt, and no one actually believes his story, he hires private investigator Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) to track down and bring his assailants to justice.
This sardonic, deadpan tribute to the blind ambition and avarice of the American Dream won't be for everyone but it is so warped that it could only ever have been based on a true story. Writers Christopher Markus and Steven McFeely took the magazine articles by Pete Collins and matched Michael Bay’s visual tone to near perfection. These borderline unbelievable antics match Bay’s storytelling techniques to a tee, and while there are admittedly parts that drag, you’ll be laughing too much to care.
Wahlberg goes back to his early days and channels an extension of the naive, dense, yet ultimately ambitious Dirk Diggler from his "Boogie Nights" days and adds in a healthy dose of sociopathic behaviour to make Danny Lugo. It’s rare to actually be rooting for a delusional nut who is a horrible person in a movie, but Wahlberg does it brilliantly, turning in one of his better performances in years. Anthony Mackie handles the comedy of it all so smoothly and Dwayne Johnson once again proves his chops for comedy taking his Paul Doyle to manic and gonzo heights that would make Johnny Deep and Hunter S. Thompson proud. Tony Shalhoub just works so well as the charismatic and funny villain that you have to believe he was having a ridiculous amount of fun tearing into the material at every turn. Rob Corddry, Ed Harris, Ken Jeong, Bar Paly and Rebel Wilson round out the ensemble cast and much like every character in the film, these actors played their parts so perfectly that it felt effortless from all involved.
Picture and sound quality on the BD are top drawer and the special features on this collector's edition Blu-Ray features an eight-part stellar behind the scenes look at the making of and the history behind the film.
If you go into "Pain & Gain" taking it too seriously then you just won’t get it. Bay lightens up as he tells the most twisted, warped and perverted story about the pursuit of the American Dream ever imaginable. This film is the embodiment of the true absurdity of excess.
4 out of 5 stars.