Director Michael Bay turns from transforming robots to bodybuilding criminals for his latest exercise in testosterone-fueled excess. Based on the bizarre-but-true story, P&G stars Mark Wahlberg as Miami Beach personal trainer Daniel Lugo, who's determined to live out the American Dream ("We're doers, doers do!"). Lugo teams with gym rat Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) to kidnap and extort money from a deli franchise magnate. Of course, their cockamamie scheme goes absurdly awry—think Fargo on steroids and coke. Want to really beef up your P&G IQ? Don't be a wimp! Start juicing with these five factoids:
1. Stranger Than Fiction: The script is based on a three-part series of articles published in Miami New Times in 1999 (the crimes occurred between 1994 and 1995). Daniel Lugo, the slick-talking sociopath played by Wahlberg, and Adrian Doorbal, the impotent steroids-abuser played by Mackie, are currently sitting on death row, their cases having been heard by Judge Alex Ferrer—yes, of Judge Alex TV fame. But Johnson's character, Paul Doyle—who's alternately addicted to Jesus and blow—is a fictional composite of two people.
2. From Monk to Mogul: Tony Shalhoub (Monk) plays Victor Kershaw, the filthy-rich wiseguy whom the three muscle thugs abduct, torture, rob and try to kill. The role, which Shalhoub accepted after a deal with Albert Brooks fell through, is based on real-life businessman Marc Schiller. Amazingly, Schiller survived being Tasered, set on fire, run over by a car and much more. The pain continues for Schiller, who's none too happy about how he's portrayed in Pain & Gain and has self-published a book about his ordeal.
3. Savings & Loans: Pain & Gain was made for only $26 million (compared to $195 million for the last Transformers movie). That's the lowest budget for any Bay-directed feature since his debut, Bad Boys, and the stars took cuts with back-end deals to keep costs down. The filmmakers did spend $75,000 on outrageous sex toys to use as props. OK, that sounds like a lot, but they planned to return some and get three-quarters of their money back. Wait...you can return those?!
4. More Pain Than Comedic Gain: Rebel Wilson as Doorbal's love interest, Rob Corddry as the gym owner and ubiquitous Ken Jeong as an unhinged motivational speaker try to inject laughs into this "action-comedy." But the film is much darker than the trailers would have you believe and can't pull off all the schizo-tonal shifts. It's tough to laugh at grisly scenes of torture and murder, including hacking up and grilling body parts. Unless you thought Zero Dark Thirty was a hoot!
5. P&G Is Not PC: Not surprisingly, Bay's latest bombast has something to offend everyone. There are the misogynist depictions of women and cracks about minorities. This mean-spiritedness is supposedly part of a higher purpose—a satire of America's unbridled obsession with indulgence. But without a sharper commentary, Pain & Gain ends up reveling in its slickly shot, neon-colored world of strippers, drugs and swanky beachfronts. It's like a $26 million-dollar infomercial.