Pain And Gain Blu-ray ReviewAugust 28, 2013
Pain & Gain is a stranger-than-fiction story of roided-out Miami bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie) who kidnap, torture and extort their way into some serious cash in the mid-90s. It’s based on true events, following Wahlberg’s Danny Lugo and two accomplices as they attempt to seize hold of the American dream by any means necessary. Those means become increasingly insane as the tale unfolds, involving a coked-out, juiced up criminal who finds his faith, hilariously failed kidnappings and murder attempts, and a guy grilling human hands on a grill in broad daylight. This is an incredibly dark comedy, with a bit of an uneven tone but plenty of genuine laugh-out loud moments.
Danny Lugo (Wahlberg) loves fitness, but hates his job as a personal trainer – or at least the low income associated with it. He is determined to be a success at any cost, and after attending seminars with a crazed motivational speaker (Ken Jeong) he decides to seize the assets of one of his clients, a rich, drug-dealing scumbag named Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub). He soon attracts two other trainers to his cause, his employee Adrian (Mackie), and an ex-con named Paul (Johnson). Adrian’s steroid abuse has led to erectile dysfunction, and Paul has found Jesus and is desperately trying to stay sober – a goal that he fails miserably during the film’s run time, leading to some of its biggest laughs.
Dwayne Johnson may get second billing here, but he absolutely steals the show in Pain & Gain. He manages to show off some serious acting chops in a role that is nothing like what we’ve seen him play previously. His dim-witted character is hugely entertaining in the film’s funnier moments, but Johnson gets to squeeze in some dramatic moments in the film’s home stretch. That’s not to say that Wahlberg and Mackie are wasted here – some of Pain & Gain’s strongest moments come from the Sun Gym Gang’s interactions, and watching their carefully laid-out plans crumble and the chaos that ensues.
Paramount’s 1080p Blu-ray release of Pain & Gain is tremendous, featuring one of the best transfers I’ve ever seen. The picture is incredibly impressive, and the film’s vibrant colors, solid blacks and bold contrast create an intense, cinematic feel throughout. Texture detail is through the roof, and there are no noticeable signs of edge enhancement, aliasing or noise reduction. In fact, for a film shot on a relatively small budget, Pain & Gain manages to completely pull off the glossy, saturated blockbuster look of Bay’s much more expensive shots in movies like Transformers. The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless soundtrack is just as remarkable, with hard hitting bass, crystal clear dialogue, and a well-balanced , well-spaced mix. French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are on the disk as well, and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles are also included.
Overall, I was utterly blown away by Pain & Gain’s Blu-ray package, until I realized that this disk contains absolutely no extras. No trailer, no audio commentary, no deleted scenes, no featurettes, no nothing. This is quite curious, as barebones releases are usually reserved for films with a Special Edition double-dip in mind, but I’m not sure this film did well enough to warrant such a release. Michael Bay might have the power to change Paramount’s mind about this though, which I’d love to see; there could easily be a host of intriguing extras about this film. For one thing, I’d love to find out just how much of the events were embellished, and how much was true to life.
All in all, I was very much pleasantly surprised by Pain & Gain, a film that is easily one of the funniest and most entertaining thus far in 2013. The movie shows that Michael Bay actually has real talent, which is showcased here when he has a decent script to work with and a restricted budget that forces him to be more creative (though he does manage to get one big explosion in). The audio and visual presentation on this disk is phenomenal, but is let down by the complete lack of extras. Still, this release is highly recommended for those who missed the film in theaters and want to experience a theater-quality presentation in their living room.