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Pain & Gain (Blu-ray Review)

Pain & Gain is another one of those films in 2013 where try as I might, I just never made it to in the theater and therefore I have been waiting ever since its April theatrical release to check it out on the Blu-ray format.  Obviously, that day has finally come!  Hooray!  Thank you Paramount!  After hearing some encouraging things about the film and really digging the ultra-hyper, exaggeratively stylish and humorous vibe of the movie’s trailer, I’ve been dying to finally check this one out.  So before I pop this one into my trusty Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray player, I wanted to take a brief moment to reflect on things here because after all, first and foremost, this is a Michael Bay film and it could go either way.  Thankfully I’m a devoted follower of the man, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t make stinkers either (most notably the last two Transformers movies).  And this one is also based on a novel and coincidentally is Bay’s smallest budget project in awhile so I guess you can say there’s a lot riding on the success of this one.  Now I don’t know what to expect, but if it’s anything like the film’s trailer, I’m exceptionally optimistic about things.  So here goes nothing as I unwrap the Blu-ray case from it’s protective thin plastic outer membrane and insert the disc into my player (see unboxing pictures below).  You ready?  I am!  Let’s do this thing!

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Film 

So as we already established above, Pain & Gain is a 2013 American crime-comedy film directed by Michael Bay and stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie plus Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong and Bar Paly. The film is based on a story published in a 1999 series of Miami New Times articles written by Pete Collins and compiled in Collins’ 2013 book Pain & Gain: This is a True Story, which details the kidnapping, extortion, torture and murder of several victims by an organized group of criminals that included a number of bodybuilders affiliated with Sun Gym.

Michael Bay first announced the film after the release of 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  Bay stated he wanted to do Pain & Gain between the second and third Transformers films. However, the project was put on hold when Paramount gave the third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a green light for a 2011 release date.  Hooray!  Not!  And I mentioned this before that this film is the lowest budget Bay has worked with since Bad Boys, however, that’s thanks in part to the fact that neither Bay, Johnson or Wahlberg took a salary.  What nice guys!

So there’s a lot going on here in Pain & Gain, but I think after watching this film I can summarize it in five words…Pursuit Of The American Dream…or POTAD as I like to call it for short.  As I sat there and took it all in I concurred with the overall theme of the film…most of us want better for our lives, but FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) is what stands in our way and prevents us from having what’s rightfully ours in this world.  If anything, I’m more “pumped” than ever after watching this to make something of my life and do what I want to do…as long as that does not pertain to or fall in line with the illegal actions of Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) and gang.

You see, Daniel Lugo is a dreamer and an achiever, but he’s also a schemer and a recently released convict down in Miami, FL.  Despite his record, Sun Gym owner John Mese (Corddry) hires Daniel to increase membership.  Lugo triples the membership in a very short time and it’s during this period when he also befriends Adrian Doorbal (Mackie), who also shares a common belief that he wants to be more in life.  Inspired by motivational speaker Johnny Wu (Jeong), I remember him, Daniel decides to be a “doer,” convinces another recently released religious convict, Paul Doyle (Johnson) to join forces with Adrian and him and devises multiple plans (initial ones were hilariously unsuccessful) to kidnap his rich client Victor Kershaw (Shalhoub) and extort him through torture of all his assets…estate, money, dogs, etc.  As Daniel puts it, he’s very good at this because he’s seen a lot of movies.  LOL.  However, Victor doesn’t go down without a fight and he pushes the boys over the edge to compromise their morals to get what they want.  But is it enough?  Will they eventually want more?  Of course!  This wouldn’t be a very good movie if they didn’t.

First and foremost, this didn’t feel like a Michael Bay movie although I can’t exactly put my finger on it.  The zany shots, fast pacing and one-liners were all there, but it felt a bit contrived and restricted at times.  Perhaps it was the budget?  Not a huge sandbox like he’s accustomed to?  I don’t know.  But I do know this.  I had a blast with this one.  Despite it being based on a true story and you already knowing the inevitable ending, I had no regrets after finishing this one just like if I took a chance on life by getting into the shiny new Camaro known as Bumblebee.  The humor and stylistic approaches alone, almost Crank-like at times, had me under their spell throughout the film’s two-hour runtime.  Not once did I find myself reaching for my phone or wondering how much running time was left.  I was fully invested and I hope that’s conveyed by the enthusiasm in my penmanship here.

In addition to the film’s “pumped” up and uber-exaggerated style and zingy one-liners that had me in stitches (you have to listen carefully so you don’t miss some of the really good ones nestled between everyday dialogue), the performances here were paramount to the successful narrative, in my opinion.  I don’t know how Wahlberg remembered some of his lines, but I haven’t seen him this spot on and witty since the action-buddy police comedy The Other Guys.  This guy just knocked it out of the park every time and absolutely nailed his lines with the utmost of conviction.  Of course it didn’t hurt having The Rock nearby with his charisma and chemistry that just jived and cohesively infused with that of Mary Mark’s.  While we all know that things were changed around here to protect the innocent and make it more a Hollywood spectacular, just the mere thought that this was loosely based on a true story kept my attention span in check and peaked my curiosity throughout.  Pain & Gain has many great moments, despite the indecisive critical reviews, and those moments don’t hurt (pun intended).  They felt great!  And that’s why I like this one.  Pain & Gain is all the gain without the pain.

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Video 

Just like the chiseled razor sharp presentations of The Transformers or the meticulous Crank on Blu-ray, every single pectoral, bicep and triceps muscle is chiseled razor sharp on your HDTV display here courtesy of Paramount’s 1080p MPEG-AVC transfer.  Every sun-drenched Miami minute of this film is gorgeously rendered and on display in its finest moments, capturing every impeccable detail here in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio widescreen presentation.  The Florida sun never looked better and more inviting in its life to me as it did when I watched this.  And those blue skies.  Oh my God!  They made me want to cry.  I was packing my bags for Miami all night long,  This is the Blu-ray transfer we have all been waiting for.  Thank you Mr. Bay!  Expect to see every bead of sweat, drop of blood, fabric, hair, protein shake, etc. in the utmost of clarity with some of the deepest and inkiest black levels you ever saw.  Rock on!  This is the real deal.  No issues with noise, artifacts or gunk on the print at all.  Despite many of the film’s stylish techniques employed throughout, contrast is only jacked when it intentionally wants to be and the skin tones never look off.  Never!  This is is what dreams are made of.  This one made me want to pump myself up.  In my opinion, it’s easily one of the most impressive Blu-ray presentations I have seen to date this year.  Again…kudos Paramount…kudos.

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Audio 

And next up…what to say, what to say about the audio?  How about P-E-R-F-E-C-T?!  It’s not you typical rock and shock big bang booming soundtrack of a Michael Bay movie, but it’s not supposed to be.  Is it?  Nope!  Despite the scaled back budget, this soundtrack amazes and pumps you up with its big, bad and bold presentation.  Like the video section discussed above, Paramount doesn’t hold back any punches with this Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless surround track.  It’s clean, accurate and consistent.  And best of all…dialogue is always loud, clear and intelligible throughout.  That’s important.  If you remember me talking about all the one-liners and zingers above, the center channel makes sure you never miss a single line.  And I appreciate that very much.  My girlfriend and I had a blast with this film and the perfectly captured audio was a big part of helping us achieve this ultimate level of satisfaction.  The soundtrack infuses your viewing room as the bass kicks in and the score/jams of the 90’s rage through your surround speakers behind you.  This may be a smaller budget movie for Mr. Bay, but no expense was spared in making this the absolute finest presentation it has the potential to be.  The surround sound channels make sure you re-live every moment of the true story, whether environmental, musical or atmospheric, you’re in the zone.  And your LFE channel won’t let you forget it’s there either.  Live it!  Rock it!  Love it!

In addition to the Blu-ray default Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless audio surround track, you’ll also find selectable listening options for a French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks too.  There are also English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles available on here to.  I got you all covered.

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Extras 

Here’s the section where I’m terribly afraid many people will unanimously cry out the one word everyone hates to hear…BOO!  However, I don’t feel the same.  I don’t care if there are any “real” extras on Blu-ray disc release.  It’s nice.  Yes.  But what’s more important to me is the quality of the film displayed in the finest possible presentation.  I’ll take a good film any day over a handful of extras I’ll probably only watch once.  You picking up what I’m dropping here?  So although there are really no “real” tangible extras here for the hardcore Blu-rayphiles to digest, I still get off on the fact that Paramount is one of the few Blu-ray studios left who do it right.  They provide you with an iTunes HD Digital Copy playable on all your favorite devices.  How can you roll your eyes or shrug your shoulders at that?  And okay, yes, even though I hate them, they also provide a UltraViolet Digital Copy as well.  The codes to claim these and more are provided on the loose flyers within the Blu-ray disc case.  There’s also a separate DVD disc included that houses the feature film in Standard Definition.  And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for…the Pain & Gain Blu-ray unboxing!!!

The Blu-ray’s slip case.  As you can see, there are some coupons inside!

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The back of the slipcase.  The cover art on back of Blu-ray case is the same.

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We are almost there!  The protective wrap covering the virgin disc inside!

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Coupons!  Discs!  Can you contain yourself any longer?!

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Inserting the Blu-ray disc for the very first time into my Playstation 3.

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And last but not least, here’s the main menu on the Blu-ray disc.

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The static disc menu above screams simplicity, back to the old DVD days, doesn’t it?  Aw…remember the good old days?  I do.  Well, I hope you enjoyed the above unboxing pics.  I actually enjoy doing these and will probably incorporate this practice into more of my future Blu-ray reviews if the demand is there for them.  Let me know!

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Final 

So there you have it.  Despite there being no extras at all to tickle your fancy and keep you engaged, my girlfriend and I had an absolute blast with this title and I whole-heartedly recommend this one despite it being a lightweight in the supplemental materials area.  I do admit though that this would have actually been really cool to see some extra footage, if not in regards to the actual making of the movie, but maybe some actual news coverage of the real story before Hollywood got its grubby paws on it.  However, I’m fine with what I have here…one hell of a bad a$$ presentation and a film I’m happy to say I really liked.  Sure there are some moments of exaggeration that you know would or could never happen in real life, but lighten up man…you got to Hollywood things sometimes to make them more interesting, marketable and appealing to audiences.  Not every film can be as unriveting and dull at times as Zero Dark Thirty manages to be.  This one, as the name suggests, pumps you up and I recommend that all Blu-ray addicts out there reading this make sure you grab a heaping scooping of Pain & Gain when it makes its debut on Blu-ray August 27th.  And for all you Digital Download lovers out there…you can actually start enjoying this one early on August 13th.  If you like what you read above, why not help support our site and pre-order this one today at it’s current great price of $17.99?  Much appreciated and what a steal in the price category for this one!  Get fit.  Eat healthy.  And watch Pain& Gain as soon as possible.  I’m out of here!  (Over the loudspeaker – Brian White has left the building folks)

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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