Pain & Gain: Special Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Pain and Gain - www.whysoblu.comGet pumped for the ultimate Pain & Gain experience with this Special Collector’s Edition loaded with bonus features that take you on set with the all-star cast and behind the camera with director Michael Bay. When an ambitious group of personal trainers get caught up in a criminal enterprise that goes horribly wrong, living large will take everything they’ve got in the unbelievable true story that critics are calling “hilarious, smart, clever, & fresh.” 


For several years we heard rumblings and musings about how Michael Bay wanted to do a lower budget “personal” film but due to him making ten Transformers films every other year for the past few years seemed like that project would never come to fruition. Finally, after wrapping up the abysmal Transformers: Dark of the Moon film, Michael Bay and company set off to make his lower budgeted personal film. Pain & Gain would be that film that was based on the unbelievable true story of a couple of meatheads, who in the mid-90’s decided they would kidnap a wealthy businessman, so they could take all of his money. Pete Collins was the author of the original articles that appeared in various publications. 

Tweaked for Hollywood’s consideration and labeled a “black comedy,” Pain & Gain somewhat strips the grim happenings, puts it in a blender, and mixes all of it up. The finished cocktail we get is a fast, loud, grind house, exploitation, action, black comedy. I could have kept going with more descriptors but you get the hint. Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a self described Miami fitness nut, who is a “doer” and fancies himself a real winner in life. Anthony Mackie plays Adrian Doorbal who is Lugo’s right-hand man and friend from his days at the Sun Gym where Lugo worked. Dwayne Johnson is the newly freed Paul Doyle and a full partner in the current scheme of kidnapping and extortion.

Tony Shalhoub plays the unfortunate businessman that will feel the three stooges’ wrath and Harris is the retired ex-private investigator who takes the case and tries to find the crew before they get away. Before I go into my review-rant I will be completely honest and say that upon my first viewing of Pain & Gain I was not impressed. I thought it was dumb and not funny. I did a strange thing later the same day and had some people over to watch it with me and I ended up really enjoying the film on my second viewing. It was a fun and twisted action romp. This rarely happens with films that I watch. Pain & Gain is extremely self-aware of the type of film it is – it has too, because there are so many continuity and prop errors that there’s no way that production consciously new that most of the products depicted in the film did not exist in the mid-90’s. That’s beside the point, though.

On the downside of it all is the more fantastic comedic aspects of the film itself. What is Ken Jeong doing here? The “Stryper” bit was lame and any of the comedic elements that bordered on slapstick also didn’t mesh well with the film. Good thing this was few and far between. What did work in the film’s favor is that the movie runs on adrenaline and violence. People get the crap kicked out of each other and you feel it. That could be the testament to the material or to the sound mixers and those who authored the Blu-ray. Take your pick.

I do remember that before Pain & Gain was released, family members of the victims were upset that Hollywood would glamorized and turn the grim events that occurred into a comedic farce. I’ll play the role of Switzerland in this case. What’s really surprising is to see how far these idiots got into their caper. I kept waiting for the Looney Tunes theme to start playing. I also wondered what the film would be like if someone like David Fincher had directed it. The source material is stellar stuff but they decided to go the hyper-kinetic-black comedy route, so we’ll never know.

The meatheads, as portrayed by our actors, have no redeeming qualities, so it’s really easy to see how some of the general public can’t latch themselves to any one character. I think Mark Wahlberg played the best but he has the most acting experience. This doesn’t mean that his character is the most likable, because he’s not. Lugo is a douche. Doorbal is a yes-man and Doyle is technically just a tag-along. Dwayne Johnson doesn’t play these roles too often, so he did seem lost a couple of times. Then again, the character he was playing was lost in real life.

Pain & Gain will never win awards for being great film per se, but because it comes awfully close to being grindhouse fare via the Tony Scott school of filmmaking, it shouldn’t be cast aside either. It may not be a compliment of the highest order but I will take Pain & Gain over any of the Transformers films any day of the week.


Pain and Gain - www.whysoblu.com


Pain & Gain is presented in 1080p, 2.40:1 widescreen. Usually on a Michael Bay film you can expect it to be a stellar presentation when it hits the Blu-ray format. Pain & Gain is almost no different. I say “almost” because the over saturation of colors during post production is a bit strong – in fact it looks like they laid one of those Instagram filters over it in some of the more stylized and colorful shots. Aside from that the video presentation is pretty damn great! I’ve never been to Miami but Bay sure knows how to capture the spirit of the city. Flesh tones on just about every character that appear onscreen have a golden, almost, toasty look to them – I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone tanned prior to shooting but the high definition video captures it and gives it that authentic look. Detail is exquisite, contrast levels don’t fluctuate and black levels remain steady and free of crush. Again, the color palette is insane looking on this Blu-ray. It doesn’t distract from the film itself but is the only reason why it doesn’t receive a perfect score. It’s near-reference.

Pain and Gain - www.whysoblu.com


Pain & Gain is presented in Dolby TrueHD 7.1. Unlike the near-reference quality of the video, there’s absolutely zero doubt that the audio specs are of DEMO quality. From the opening titles, to the trance infused scenes of Miami’s nightlife, to the action, Pain & Gain brings the noise to Blu-ray in spades! Dialogue is crystal clear and sharp, the LFE gets the workout of a life time, and the surround sound channels capture the ambience of being a criminal baller. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this Blu-ray has demo-worthy sound. Michael Bay films on Blu-ray tend to always have stellar sound. Those mid-90’s old school tracks never sounded so good!

Pain and Gain - www.whysoblu.com


Pain & Gain was released as a movie-only version a couple of months ago, which means that this newest version’s main selling point is the NEW bonus features included. Drum roll please! Pain & Gain: Special Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray contains a one hour making-of documentary chronicling the making of the film. From the articles written by Pete Collins to the final shot of the film, it’s a pretty entertaining and thorough making-of. It’s not too self-congratulatory, as most of these things usually are, but be prepared for the redundancy of everyone saying that “Michael Bay isn’t used to shooting low budget films.” Even Bay, who can be a bit of a spaz, comes off less stuck up than usual. Hell, he even lent production the use of his Miami home for some of the scenes that were filmed. I do wish there were more features included like a commentary or some deleted scenes, etc., but what we do get is okay. The documentary can be played all the way through or you can select different chapters and watch them individually.

  •          Still A True Story: Ripped From The Headlines
  •          Back to Basics: Michael Bay’s Vision
  •          American Dreamer: Daniel Lugo
  •          Passion Player: Paul Doyle
  •          Dirty Work: Adrian Doorbal
  •          Victimless Crime: Victor Kershaw
  •          Diamonds in the Rough: Locations
  •          The Real Deal: Law Enforcement


Pain and Gain - www.whysoblu.com


I will shut up now and say that Pain & Gain was a good time considering the extremely grim details of the case it is based on. Pain & Gain can be considered Domino’s long lost cousin in that they both share certain similarities in that the most outrageous of depictions actually happened. This Collector’s Special Edition does have the one lone documentary in addition to a UV digital copy/iTunes. The video and audio are tops and the finished product is whacky. For all the crap talk I gave the film before seeing it, I’m glad it wasn’t all that bad at the end. Are you a doer? If so, then you should give Pain & Gain a spin.




Order Pain & Gain: Special Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray!

Pain and Gain - www.whysoblu.com


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

1 Response to “Pain & Gain: Special Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Glad you dug the film for basically the same reasons that I did and that you were happy to man up and leave the comment section open. Given that this disc has features, I now have a reason to go for it, once it gets cheaper.