Michael Bay's 2013 film Pain & Gain was just released on Blu-ray a few months ago, back in August, wasn't it? Yep. Do we really need a double dip already? Nope. Then why are we getting one? Because Paramount seems to have this new thing where they release barebones discs and then a few months later releases those same movies with identical technical specs in extras-laden reissues. Case in point, the new Pain & Gain: Special Collector's Edition Blu-ray, which includes well over an hour's worth of supplements whereas that last disc had… menus. But more on that in a bit.
The movie is based on the true story of a Miami based weightlifter and bodybuilder named Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) who works his day job as a personal trainer. He's an ambitious guy, he wants it all: the house, the woman, the fat bank account, the yacht. You name it, he wants it, and he's not afraid to do whatever it takes to get it, even if that means working outside the law. At his day job though, Daniel is a rock star. His boss, John Mese (Rob Corddry), loves the fact that he's turned his business around and what was once mainly populated by Florida retirees is now the place to be for the young and the sexy and the body obsessed. Daniel gets a nice promotion out of this, but it isn't enough to satisfy that ambition.
So Daniel comes up with a plan. He talks to one of his clients, Adrian (Anthony Mackie), and one of the gym's new hires, an ex-con named Paul (Dwayne Johnson), about kidnapping an extremely wealthy and arrogant client of his named Victor (Tony Shalhoub). They figure they can hold him until he signs over everything to them, and amazingly enough, once they pull it off, it works! But soon things, of course, go south and a series is mistakes and stupid, greedy decisions brings things crumbling down around them as a Detective Du Bois (Ed Harris) starts sniffing around…
Pain & Gain is a pretty twisted crime story laced with some surprisingly effective moments of pitch black comedy and a few decent action scenes to help keep things interesting. Those expecting the near constant gun play or incessant barrage of CGI rendered special effects of some of Michael Bay's other movies might be taken aback by just how much he lets the story and the acting do the talking here. Yes, there are some stunts and what not but what makes this work is the cast and the frenetic pacing of the movie. This is Michael Bay intentionally going back to a more modest budget than he's been allowed to play with typically, and so it's got more in common with some of his earlier films like Bad Boys than with Pearl Harbor or the Transformers pictures. He's also very definitely playing in an R-rated sandbox this time around.
The performances are a lot of fun here. Our three male leads are obviously enjoying themselves, with Wahlberg playing the slightly dim ringleader with a goofy energy that makes him a blast to watch. He's obviously in great shape and so he definitely looks the part, but Wahlberg brings a bit of quirky charisma to the part that makes his character more than just a ‘dumb weightlifter.' Then there's Dwayne Johnson, or The Rock if you prefer, who is in some ways playing against casting stereotypes with this part and doing a fine job of it. Johnson can do comedy well, he's proven it before, but this just might be the best performance he's given. Anthony Mackie also turns in fine work here as does Tony Shalhoub, who is so immensely dislikeable that you do at least kinda-sorta see why the three goons would target him the way that they do, even if his fate becomes increasingly ridiculous at the story plays out. Throw in Bar Paly's and a scene stealing Rebel Wilson in some amusing supporting roles and you can see how this would turn out to be a fun watch. And of course, Ed Harris plays his cop character perfectly. He's had plenty of experience playing characters of this ilk throughout his career and he does fine work here.
Quite a bit darker than the A-list cast and director behind all of this would likely lead you to believe, Pain & Gain takes a twisted situation and makes it both interesting and entertaining. It is, in many ways, a very bleak story but it manages to take things to such ridiculous extremes that you can't help but want to go along for the ride. Bay and company shoot the Miami locations well, they really suit his filmmaking style, and the soundtrack works well, complimenting and at times enhancing what happens in the picture as a good soundtrack should. The film also makes some interesting points about how desperate some people can get when life comes at them hard. There's a genuine sense of pathos to much of what happens here, as the movie espouses on just how hard it is to make the increasingly elusive ‘American Dream' come true.
There are times where it seems unnecessarily crass but more often than not what's here works very well. This is much smarter and far more bizarre than most will probably expect, but in many ways it's so much better for it. Fast paced, exciting and funny, Pain & Gain was a very pleasant surprise, and at the same time, a highly amusing exercise in unpleasantness!
Pain & Gain is reissued on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.40.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Colors really light up here and as the movie makes use of a very bright, sometimes even garish palette, the transfer really pops. At the same time, the colors don't bleed, they stay really well defined and distinct. Black levels are nice and deep, while shadow detail stays strong throughout. There were no obvious compression artifacts to note and only some very light banding noticeable in a few scenes. Skin tones look lifelike and natural, though sometimes the contrast is dialed up a bit for artistic effect and they look a bit hot, while detail impresses in pretty much every frame of the movie. There are some quirks to the image but this are obviously intentional and within the context of the story being told, they work quite well. Really and truly, Pain & Gain looks fantastic in high definition.
The main audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track, though Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are offered up French, Spanish and Portuguese. You want subtitles? Okay, you get those in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese as well.
The 7.1 mix is just as aggressive and impressive as you could hope. The action scenes have plenty of amazing directional effects and the track is consistently using all of the channels in the mix, either for bombastic chaos or subtle background noise, to really create an enveloping soundscape. The score, most of which is electronic music, is fast paced and full of strong bass, all of which is replicated really well here and so we get plenty of low end thump, but it doesn't bury the dialogue or the more discrete sound effects used in the movie. This is a reference quality track, one that'll give your surround sound system a welcome workout.
So, why the double dip? Extras. The first issue of this movie from Paramount came out in August of 2013 and it had no extra features at all. This Special Collector's Edition corrects that, and it'll probably annoy fans who plunked down for the previous barebones release, and rightfully so.
Basically what we get here is a fifty-seven minute featurette called The A Game: Michael Bay's Pain & Gain which clocks in at a combined fifty-three minutes or so in length and which is broken down in to eight sections. You can watch these all at once with a ‘play all' option or you can access each section individually. The eight sections are:
Still A True Story: Ripped From The Headlines - This interviews Miami reporter Pete Collins and the real life Ed DuBois about the case that inspired the movie.
Back To Basics: Michael Bay's Vision - Is a look at how Bay's style worked well on the feature by way of cast and crew interviews in which the subjects discuss working with the director on this picture.
American Dreamer: Daniel Lugo - This might sound like a quick biography piece on the real life Lugo but it's actually more focused on what Wahlberg had to do to not only get into character but get into the kind of shape he needed to be for this part.
Passion Player: Paul Doyle - This is more of the same, albeit this time around the focus is on Dwayne Johnson and what he brought to the movie and how he acclimated himself to this part after originally being considered for Doorbal.
Dirty Work: Adrian Doorbal - Anthony Mackie gets his time in the supplemental spotlight as we learn how he took on playing Adrian Doorbal in the movie and how he felt about the character.
Victimless Crime: Victor Kershaw - This is a look at what Tony Shalhoub went through playing his role, what was required of him for the feature and what it took out of him to get the job done. The nature of his work here means he had to go through the ringer, it's quite interesting.
Diamonds In The Rough: Locations - This shows off some of the Miami locations used in the movie, one of which is actually the director's own home.
The Real Deal: Law Enforcement - The last section discusses how actual police officers were used in various capacities in the production.
Rounding out the extras are animated menus, chapter selection and the inclusion of a download code for an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the movie. And just to keep things interesting, the disc comes housed inside a red plastic Blu-ray case which in turn fits nicely inside a slipcover featuring identical cover art. Sadly there's no trailer here. What has been provided here is pretty good and quite interesting but you'd think that if Paramount were going to unleash a double dip as quickly as they did here that they'd have really gone all out. Given that we don't even get a commentary (and say what you will about Bay and his movies, his commentary tracks are generally very good), you can't help but feel that more could and should have been done here.
Double dipping on Pain & Gain so soon after its initial barebones release is no doubt going to sting for those who plunked down their hard earned cash on that first offering from Paramount. This new re-issue offers up great sound and video quality and handily trumps that older release in the extras department by offering up some interesting and entertaining supplemental material. The movie itself? Far more of a black comedy than a traditional action movie but all the better for it. A great cast and some slick direction make this one work really, really well. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.