Last night me and the missus watched a crime comedy film, directed by Michael Bay (“Transformers”, “The Purge”), which declares “This is a true story”.
It turns out that this movie was in fact actually based upon a book titled “Pain & Gain : This Is A True Story” written by reporter Pete Collins. The book compiled a series of stories that Collins wrote for the Miami New Times in 1999 about crimes committed by the Sun Gym gang in Florida.
In 1995 Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg – “Contraband”, “2 Guns”) yearns for the lifestyle and riches attained by a member of the Sun Gym that he works at as a personal trainer.
Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub – “Monk”, “1408”) is that member, and Lugo believes Kershaw to be a criminal.
Inspired by a motivational speaker to become a “doer, not a don’ter”, Lugo recruits fellow gym worker Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie – “Black Or White”) to his scheme to kidnap and torture Kershaw with a view to convincing him to give up all his assets to them. After all, he’s entitled to fulfil the American Dream, right?
Adding Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson – “Hercules”, “Get Smart”), a cocaine addicted ex-convict who has turned to Christianity to the team, the three put their plan into action – with often inept and disastrous results.
Eye candy Sorina Luminita (Bar Paly – “Non-Stop”) pops up as romantic interest for Lugo to pass on to Doyle and Robin Peck (Rebel Wilson – “Pitch Perfect”) as a nurse to Doorbal, whilst a retired private investigator Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris – “Appaloosa, “A History Of Violence”) becomes involved in the story later on.
Suffice to say, things do not go according to plan…
There was some controversy over this film, as it can be construed as sympathetic to the Sun Gym gang and could cause offence to survivors and relatives of the victims.
In terms of how true to life the film is, in real life both Lugo and Doorbal existed and were sentenced to death. Doyle and Kershaw are actually composites of several real characters, and Luminita and Peck are based on other real life people.
Ignoring the true vs made up question though, taken as a crime comedy for entertainment purposes this is a very good film.
A lot of people seem to dislike Bay’s films, claiming that they are too dumbed down. There may be some truth to that, but I am of the opinion that cinema has enough room for the full range of films from the really worthy and intelluectual through the big dumb blockbusters, and all points in between. After all, if you don’t like it you don’t have to watch it.
In my opinion Wahlberg, Mackie and Johnson put in great performances here that are a mix of gritty and real and also blackly funny. Well worth a viewing…