by : Angela Betancourt
Michael Bay’s new film Pain & Gain is a true story and dark comedy starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie, and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
In 1999, the Miami New Times published a story by the same name written by Pete Collins. It was about the Sun Gym Gang; a group of ruthless bodybuilders who committed a series of heinous and strange acts of violence and torture in Miami all in the name of living the “good life”. The almost too wild to be true tale of sex, murder, revenge, drugs and luxury cars, shocked the city. It was a story that captivated one of Hollywood’s biggest directors.
“12 years ago the articles, the very detailed articles, laid out this bizarre story. It was bizarrely funny. But I also saw something that was about people who were never happy with what they have. I felt that there was some social commentary,” said Bay at the Miami press conference at the Mondrian Oriental Hotel. “It’s an odd movie because we are going into the criminal’s minds. If you ever talk to criminals they think sometimes, hey I deserve it, I’m not doing anything wrong.”
The movie chronicles the criminal misadventures of Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg), Paul Doyle (Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Mackie) as they set out to live the American dream. Fueled by cocaine, steroids, and in one case breast milk, yes…really, the trio conjures up ways to get their piece of the pie. Daniel Lugo is the leader of the pack and arguably the most intelligent. Paul Doyle wants salvation from Jesus, and Adrian Doorbal is trying to build his literal and figurative white picket fence.
Together, the trio come up with some of the most ridiculous and idiotic ideas to get what they want. With a poorly planned and executed agenda, they drag themselves into more trouble than they imagined.
Dumb losers at best, the three characters are not like the three Hollywood stars that took on these roles. For Wahlberg, playing Daniel Lugo was a chance for him to play another outrageous character reminiscent of boogie nights.
“My character was an interesting guy, he believed that he was going to get away with it and that he was right and those are the types of characters I enjoy playing,” said Wahlberg.
In the film, Paul Doyle is a contradictory character trying to fight for his own salvation. He is physically the largest of the three but the weakest mentally. He knocks people out and then nurtures them. He also has terribly misdirected good intentions. Going into his 13th year of being an actor, Johnson has been waiting to take on a role like this. He is very grateful that Bay brought him this script. Playing such a conflicted and complex character was a big departure from the type of roles he has played in the past.
“I never played a character before who was this vulnerable and this easily influenced. To go from trying to find his salvation in Jesus, to sniffing cocaine off of a woman’s backside, to then grilling body parts. It was challenging as an actor and something I was really excited about,” said Johnson.
“I would like to think that Doorbal for a short period of time actually achieved the American dream, his version of the American dream. He got his house, he got his woman, he put her in his house. He was in the middle of building his picket fence until someone got his toe shot off and that kinda messed it up,” said Mackie at the conference. “Doorbal I feel of the three guys was the one that had the true ability to see what freedom of the American dream can allow you to achieve.”
In real life, Mackie learned that Doorbal was found having sex with his paralegal one day during court. His wife divorced him and then testified against him. That told him everything he needed to know about the kind of man Doorbal was.
In the film the three men aren’t very successful in working together but behind the scenes, the three men that portrayed them did. Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie enjoyed making this film with Bay. At the press conference they told stories of the times that they improvised scenes, how the crew gravitated to the sex toys on the set, and how Wahlberg thought wearing Calvin Klein underwear was some sort of strange punishment,, it looked like the set of a TubeV porn movie and not a major Hollywood flick.
Bay also revealed that though the plot of the movie was already very bizarre there were even stranger things that happened in real life that couldn’t be included because they were too gruesome. Johnson was in Miami during the time of the trial and recalled how the entire saga shocked the magic city. It was a story that Wahlberg had a hard time believing until he found all the research. It was crazy to the point of humor. The true life Sun Gym Gang is currently in prison. Both Lugo and Doorbal are on death row and Doyle is serving time but was not sentenced to death because of his testimony. The actors were advised that it was not a good idea to speak to the convicted men. Wahlberg however was open to it.
“But what do you say to someone on death row…so?” said Wahlberg.
Dark comedy is indeed a good description for the film. Bay wanted viewers to feel conflicted while watching. He wanted there to be a lot of gray area and he succeeded. After the movie premier several viewers expressed feeling guilty about laughing at the characters and the horrible things they did. After all, that meant laughing at something terrible that actually happened. Bay explained that he wanted to show how bizarre it is to kidnap someone, take all their money, and then turn around and have a loving wedding.
Pain & Gain is a dark, funny, odd, and interesting movie that takes a journey into the minds of criminals. As with all movies some will find reasons to dislike the film but the bizarre tale might prove to be too irresistible.
“People are fascinated with the train wrecks,” said Bay
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credit: Paramount Pictures.