Wild and funny, yet prejudiced and long, Pain & Gain is now out, starring “health heroes” Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson (The Rock).
This review comes from a different angle, as I’m a business owner who’s well-entrenched in the nutrition and fitness industry:
But I’m also writing on behalf of “meatheads” and fellow business owners, because I have an axe to grind.
So let’s get to it:
If You Like PricePlow, Chances Are, You’ll Like Pain & Gain
Most readers on this site are males between 16 and 35 years old, and enjoy competitive physical sports, weightlifting, bodybuilding, MMA, or more likely, some mixture of all of the above.
If that resembles you to any degree, then take my word for it – you’re gonna like this one. You are the target demographic, and director Michael Bay (of Transformers fame) rarely misses his target.
Pain & Gain made me laugh at easy consistent paces. The Rock made me laugh a lot, and it’s easily one of his best performances ever.
The story is really damned interesting, and despite being based upon a true story, is totally original. It’s one of those true stories that’s so wild, no writer would ever have written it, as it’d be “far too outlandish to believe”.
Needless to say, you haven’t seen a movie like this before.
Nauseatingly Frustrating, Loud, and Long
Pain & Gain is not for the squeamish. It earns that R-Rating, and it’s not because of sex (although there are stripper scenes, just in case you can’t make it through 2 hours without seeing boobs).
This is Michael Bay in his element. The colors are loud. The jokes are loud. The gore is loud. It’s just a loud movie, and I would never wish it upon my mother.
I’m a relatively boring 31 year old. At times, this movie was starting to become just a bit too much for me.
To give an example, let’s just say that I did not ever expect see The Rock grilling body parts. But since I’m on the older end of Bay’s demographic, I think the rest of you will do quite fine.
There is so much comic idiocy displayed on scene, it finely succeeded in frustrating the shit out of me. But that’s not a bad thing – I was thoroughly entertained, as the movie sucked me in and didn’t let me out.
But get ready for a long movie. 2 hours and 9 minutes long, to be exact. If you’re planning on getting that monster Diet Coke, you might want to pass, because you simply won’t want to get up and miss whatever the hell is gonna happen next.
Great Acting, Great Stunts
Evidently, America wants to see dumbass jocks doing dumbass shit in an action movie, and that’s exactly what America got.
Later, I’ll voice my opinions on that, but Wahlberg, Johnson, and Anthony Mackie do incredible jobs of living up to the stereotype that was asked of them. They’re incredible at acting their parts.
Wahlberg is absolutely fantastic next to Johnson. In fact, this is a ‘lead’ where Mark’s truly not that much of a lead, and it works extremely well for him. If these guys don’t do another movie together, it would be a sin.
They do what’s asked of them, they do most of their own stunts, and they gel extremely well together on stage. You can’t ask for much more from their performances.
Inside Jokes and Core Problem Stay True to Form
The nutrition and supplement jokes, especially coming from Mackie, are great. Now I really do want to know when The Rock is using amino acids!
The problems identified by the movie are dead on – most gyms, personal trainers, and bodybuilders don’t make a ton of money. They get frustrated, and they need to look for alternate financial sources. What was true in the mid-90s remains true to this day, and in that aspect, the core dilemma of the movie has not changed one bit.
As a sidenote: Within the next year, we’ll be presenting a new system that will help change the above problems. If this is the first time you’ve heard of us, it won’t be the last.
And a YouTube commenter said it best on the trailer’s channel: “Even Johnson’s lats have lats”. Holy shit is he yoked, more than ever.
Worth the $10
The movie is entertaining, and was well worth the $10. If you can handle some gore, think about seeing Pain & Gain.
So that’s my review, but that’s not why I’m here. I don’t do movie reviews. I rant about nutrition, supplements, and business, and that’s why I’m really here:
Based on a True Story… for the Most Part
Slate.com has a great article on how the movie deviates from the true story. Obviously, Hollywood isn’t going to strictly stick to the story. I’m fine with that.
What I’m not fine with is how the writers (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) went about their alterations.
“Bodybuilders and Fitness Junkies are Idiots”
It never fails. I just love how every single person outside of the fitness community (
including especially the Hollywood writers) assume that bodybuilders, physique compeitors, and powerlifters are the dumbest pieces of shit ever put on planet earth.
A big ripped guy walks by, and out come the ignorant comments:
“Oh he’s on steroids”…
…”Yeah but he’s dumb as a rock”…
…”He’s overcompensating for something”
If you’ve said words like that, then I have news for you. You’re full of prejudiced, jealous shit — and worse — you know it.
Are bodybuilders and athletes the smartest group as a whole? No, I’m not gonna lie. Are there plenty of us idiot meatheads? Of course.
But chances are, unless you’re reading this from the offices of Jet Propulsion Lab, you’re not exactly the smartest kid in the class either.
What I will tell you is that for every Adrian Doorbal character (played by Anthony Mackie), there is an equally impressive athlete on the other end of the mental spectrum. Guys like Layne Norton and Jim Stoppani — both pHDs, both ripped to shreds.
These inspiring men just happen to know a hell of a lot more than you do about how the human body works (which you’d think is kind of an important thing), yet also have the self-discipline to put it to work and achieve some form of personal perfection.
To the Haters
So, if you’re a hater, let me break it to you in some not-so-soft words:
Times have changed. Some of these guys are simply gifted. Many of them are just plain smarter than me, funnier than me, harder-working, and their physical genetic ceiling is far higher than mine.
I accept that and flat-out admire it — no insults needed, no spiteful jealousy either. Once you can learn to do the same, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a halfway decent Hollywood portrayal.
But…. Hollywood wants their athletes to be big dumb jocks, and that’s what we got. At least Johnson and Wahlberg are great doing it.
And That’s What Kills Me…
So why this rant? Because it turns out that Mark Wahlberg’s character, Daniel Lugo, was not the total idiot portrayed in the movie.
In fact, he was quite smart. Yes, he was a total asshole who deserved severe punishment, but he was a smart bodybuilder. Such a thing does exist, people!
Was it really that impossible to make one of the bad guys not be a bumbling idiot? Did you seriously have to change the story to insult the community even more than you’ve already done?
Where Hollywood Got it Right
That said, at least Hollywood didn’t enforce another stereotype – the misbelief that bodybuilders are all a bunch of testosterone-pumping, alpha bullies who will beat you up if you look at them wrong.
The Rock’s character shows this perfectly. You have a reformed alcoholic who found God while in prison. He’s a fool, but he’s kind and compassionate.
In the fitness community, people are brought together from all walks of life and all cultures. Some are extremely religious, others are not. All different skin colors, all different ethnic origins, all different cultural tastes.
You have to look no further than this video of Rich Piana to see that side — a side portrayed extremely well by Johnson, before he turns into a total mess.
Now, I won’t tell you who the biggest jerks are in the gym, but I’ll tell you that it’s not the bodybuilders……
The Lack of Women
I’m not a feminist who needs to have women in every movie just for the sake of having women. Ladies, I know you’ll hate reading this, but the truth is that not every story involves a woman. (Just most of them.)
But this story did, and that’s why it’s a fail. Lugo did have a wife and a girlfriend, both of whom were involved in his schemes! Why not get one involved here?! What a hugely missed opportunity to expand the breadth and depth of the movie while staying true to the story and giving us more eye candy! Total whiff!
I know the movie was over 2 hours long, so something would have to be cut. I would have severely downsized Mackey’s character and some of the “suburban scenes” (despite some of the fun jokes) in order to do that.
But like I said, it’s a guy’s movie, so strippers is what we get.
…and last but certainly not least:
“All Entrepreneurs are Greedy Assholes”
This is my true motivation for writing this review.
As a small business owner who puts my every being into my business and helping my users, I felt nothing but pure insult from the writers of Pain & Gain.
It turns out that Marc Schiller, the real name of the character “antagonist” played by Tony Shalhoub, was not such a bad guy after all. It turns out he was a humble family man who likely did not call his employees childish names as done in the movie.
It turns out that this part of the story is so full of shit that I would like to never watch another movie written by these two fools ever again.
Listen up, Hollywood. I know that you deal with some of the most evil businesses in the world out there. I’ve been part of the ringer myself. I’ve seen the insanity from a front-row seat, and if I were you, I’d probably hate big business too.
So let me tell you, the real small businesses out there are nothing like “the industry” that you deal with. There’s a difference between guys like Schiller and corporations like Disney.
We small guys offer nothing but our blood, sweat, and tears in order to make the world a better and more productive place.
We don’t all do it for the money – that’s just the scorecard. We do it because there’s broken shit out there that needs to be fixed. We do it because it’s competitive and it’s fun. We do it because you can’t.
And in return, you shit on us, time and time again. And then you salt the wounds by endorsing political candidates who further shit on us, time and time again.
You do realize that it’s the young, fast-growing companies who create real, net jobs, don’t you?
Are there scammers like Lugo out there? Of course, but by and large, the good ones fight hard to destroy them. Hell, I’m in the supplement industry, one of the most unregulated industries around!
For every Amway out there, there are 200 of us trying to make some kind of positive change. For every asshat who was pushing acai berry diet scams in 2008, there were three dozen trustworthy personal trainers and dietitians telling you how to live a real healthy lifestyle.
Just like you shouldn’t lump all bodybuilders together, you sure as shit shouldn’t lump all businesses together either… but if you’re gonna do it, try to do it right.
Just One Speech
All I needed was ONE speech. Just a single rant from Shalhoub’s character, where he explains that his business is his, and not anybody else’s. Where he declares the sacrifices he made in growing his fortune, and why he deserves every last penny he got out of it before these bastards took it from him.
That’s all I wanted America to hear. His side. Remember, he was the victim here!
But no, we didn’t get that. We got the stereotypical “greedy CEO” who drives a German car and brags about how much money he made to his poor personal trainer.
And now you have American 9-5ers and impressionable college students just eating your slop right on up, thinking that this is how business owners really act.
If you’re going to try to represent people like myself, at least do it with some dignity, or don’t do it at all.
At least Lugo and his team got what was coming to them, but I’m willing to bet if the writers had their way, they’d have omitted that part of the story too.
So why did Hollywood somehow turn Lugo into the “hero”, and Schiller into the villain? Why did Hollywood need to make audiences feel absolutely no concern for him?
Hadn’t the press already done enough to tar and feather him, to the point where he wrote his own book telling his side of the story?
Are they that anti-business that they had to give him a BMW with license plates saying “Miami Bitch”, just to make a largely innocent man look like he “deserved” it?
And the only answer I can find from your industry is a strong fuck you that’s why.
I suppose in the United States of America in 2013, where all businesses are evil and profiting might as well be illegal, that’s now an acceptable answer for the majority of this country. And that saddens me.