At first glance, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new Michael Bay-directed movie appears to be a simple action-comedy flick filled with tasers, tanning beds, and ninjas. Even a gruesome severed toe is comedic because of how totally fake it looks. Pain and Gain has explosions, chase scenes, and slow-mo shots of golden-skinned women in string bikinis (did I mention that this is a Michael Bay movie?). It’s supposed to be a good time—Bay has described the film as “quirky” and “funny” (might we have the next Wes Anderson on our hands here?) but it’s not out until later this month, so we’ll have to wait and see whether it lives up to Bay’s boast. However, there are a few people who’ve already decided that Pain and Gain won’t leave them laughing.
The film, which is based on a true story drawn from a collection of articles published in the Miami New Times, centres on the Sun Gym gang, a group of Miami muscle heads who concoct a plan to kidnap wealthy people in order to get rich off of the ransom money. The problem is that they suck at it and ended up killing several of the people they abduct. “It’s horrible what happened to them,” said Zsuzsanna Griga, in an interview with the Miami Herald. “I don’t want the American public to be sympathetic to the killers.” Griga’s brother and his girlfriend were victims of the gang.
“You are talking about real people,” says retired Miami-Dade Police Sgt. Felix Jimenez, “and in this particular case, especially when you’re talking about the murder victims, these were innocent victims.” The film’s red band trailer (below) seems to try to paint some of the victims as people who are really asking for what’s coming to them, while Wahlberg and Co. come off as modern day Robin Hoods (albeit bumbling and terribly misguided ones). “Victor Kershaw is a criminal prick who deserves bad shit to happen to him,” says Wahlberg’s character, attempting to justify his plan to kidnap and rob the man. Kershaw is a stand in for real-life survivor Marc Schiller who the gang abducted, poisoned, tasered, water boarded, and ran over twice with a car. He survived and currently works in an accounting office.
Ed Du Bois, a private detective hired by Schiller, thinks that the film’s plot is pretty far-fetched. “If you read the original [Miami New Times] article, the basic elements are in the movie,” says Du Bois, “but there is a lot of Hollywood in that movie.”