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Blu-ray Review: Pain & Gain


The Movie:
One of 2013’s films showcasing extravagance, Pain & Gain is swervingly adapted from the unbelievable true story of a triad of knuckle-headed, steroid-addled bodybuilders in Miami, who try to mastermind an extortion plot that inevitably fails in every way. Believing in his right to the splendours of the American Dream, beefy personal trainer Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) recruits co-worker Adrian Doorbal (Antony Mackie) and ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) into his (what he reasonably believes to be) fail-safe plan to kidnap and extort wealthy client Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub). The trio experience comedic yet horrific setback after setback, and it is only a matter of time before they must face the judicial consequences (which is not a spoiler, as it is shown in the first frames of the film).

The film’s key strength is in the director and lead actors’ willingness to satirize their best-known qualities. Michael Bay fans and detractors alike can delight in the self-aware wink of misogyny on display, the trademark one-dimensional larger than life, testosterone pumped anti-heroes, and, of course, the trademark slow motion tracking shots. Fans of Wahlberg and Johnson, too, will watch enraptured as they unsympathetically play alternate versions of their real life, not too bright, beefcake personas.

Bonus Features:
Following the bare-bones release of the film on disc in August 2013, Paramount has bulked up its blu-ray presentation with the newly released special collector’s edition. Reissued in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, with a 2.40.1 widescreen, the picture is breathtakingly gorgeous. Every drip of sweat can be seen, and the almost-orange skin-tone of the lead actors (which Bay emphasized the actors must have in order to be believable as Miami-based gym rats), is starkly viewed. For audio geeks, the 7.1 mix is perfect for the outrageous action sequences and the base heavy soundtrack.

While at first the featurettes can be confusing to navigate (the menu makes the eight segments ambiguously appear as if there is only one), these sections provide interesting behind the scenes tidbits and highlight each of the leading actors and their real life counterparts.

Should You Buy It?
If you are a fan of Michael Bay’s then you will surely enjoy the extra hour of featurettes heralding the brilliance of this director. Surprisingly, film critics couldn’t ignore the energetic satirical edge of the film, and many chose to include it in their end-of-year best-of lists. If you are curious to see what the hype was about, then you should definitely check out the stunning collector’s edition. One can gain a lot from re-watching this fairly painless film.

Leora Heilbronn

Leora Heilbronn is a Toronto based film aficionado who has a weakness for musicals and violent action flicks. She can often be spotted reading a wide range of literature or listening to show tunes.