'Pain & Gain' review: Story of kidnap and torture not all that funny - Omaha.com
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From left, Dwayne Johnson, Tony Shalhoub and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from “Pain & Gain,” a movie about personal trainers who kidnap a multimillionaire.(The Associated Press)


'Pain & Gain' review: Story of kidnap and torture not all that funny
By Bob Fischbach
World-Herald Staff Writer


You want hot bodies, you got it. You want gorgeous Miami sunsets and bluer than blue swimming pools, here they are.

You want an R-rated comedy that's funny, that's gonna be a problem.

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Quality: Two stars (out of four)

Director: Michael Bay

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony Mackie, Rebel Wilson, Ed Harris

Rating: R for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout, drug use

Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Theaters: Aksarben, Twin Creek, Bluffs 17, Midtown, Regal, Rave, 20 Grand, Village Pointe, Oak View

“Pain & Gain” stars Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie as a couple of pumped-up personal trainers and Dwayne Johnson as one of their gym patrons, an ex-con. The three decide that guys who look as fine and work as hard as they do deserve better than cruddy apartments, no women and bills they can't pay.

So they hatch a plan to kidnap an obnoxious multimillionaire, torture him until he signs over his assets to them, and then kill him.

But there are challenges, the biggest one being that these muscle men are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.

“I've watched a lot of movies,” Wahlberg's character tells Johnson's by way of reassurance as they launch the kidnapping. “I know what I'm doing.”

Based on a real-life crime spree that happened in the mid-1990s, “Pain & Gain” is intended to be a buddy comedy of errors. Wahlberg, Mackie and Johnson all have proven ability to be funny, and they're personally appealing to boot.

But in order to make you laugh at torture and murder and gore, you need just the right tone to a movie. You need precision timing. You need the understated dryness of “Fargo.”

Instead, director Michael Bay (“Transformers,” “Armageddon”) goes for noise, chaos and a busy camera. Nothing subtle here.

In truth, I winced more often than I laughed. And the only thing worse than a comedy that's not all that funny is one that also goes on too long. This one does, at 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Oh, there are a few compensating pleasures.

Rebel Wilson (“Pitch Perfect”) does her dirty-girl act again, beguiling Mackey's character as she treats him for impotence. Ken Jeong (“The Hangover”) is just right as an over-the-top inspirational lecturer, convincing Wahlberg's character that all he needs to succeed is to become “a doer.”

Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) is watchable as Victor, the most obnoxious kidnap victim imaginable, who refuses to cooperate through weeks of bizarre torture, then refuses to die. Ed Harris is fine as the retired cop Victor hires as a private eye when the police won't believe Victor's unlikely tale.

There are also moments when you'll appreciate how committed Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie are to making this material funny, and they go for broke in one over-the-top situation after another. Wahlberg even does a scene in Calvin Klein underwear, recalling the famous ads he made in the early 1990s.

They probably had a lot of fun shooting this story full of absurdity and quotably profane dialogue. I almost expected an outtakes reel at the end.

What you will get is photographs of the real people involved in this story, next to photos of the actors who played them. That might not be a good idea here. It brings home the reality of the horrors you've just witnessed.

If you're given the chance to think about it, murder, kidnapping, extortion and torture are not all that funny.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1269, bob.fischbach@owh.com

Contact the writer: Bob Fischbach

bob.fischbach@owh.com    |   402-444-1269

Bob reviews movies and local theater productions and writes stories about those topics, as well.

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