Wasting no opportunity for the audience to laugh at the bungling trio, the lengths the filmmakers goes for laughs is nothing short of embarrassing. They range from the merely juvenile (bodily functions are sooo funny) to downright insulting (no one comes out unscathed: Jews, Christians, women, homosexuals or any minority). The crutch that Bay keeps leaning on, lest anyone has forgotten, is that everything you’re seeing here is true!

Trouble is, Bay never knows when to say when. A different director might have turned Pain & Gain into a timely object lesson on how crime doesn’t pay or how there’s so much more to life than pursuing the so-called "American Dream." But Bay's version crashes and burns because, like Transformers, there’s no discernible human connection.

While Bay may have recently apologized for the shlock that was 1998's Armageddon, at least you cared, even momentarily, about the fate of Bruce Willis’s character. The same simply can’t be said for anyone in Pain & Gain. There’s ultimately nothing to gain but pain from watching. And since Wahlberg and Johnson have already played characters just like these so many times before, you can’t help wondering what they hoped to accomplish by signing on—you know, besides the seven-figure paycheck.


  • Violence: There’s an outlandish glee (clearly, they were going for shock value a la Quentin Tarantino) about the violence in Pain & Gain. For instance, one character feeds his own severed toe to a dog. In addition to outrageous scenes involving gunfire and stressful car chases, people die in truly spectacular fashion, whether it’s a head crushed by the weight of a barbell (we see it explode like a Halloween jack-o-lantern) or a man nearly beaten to death with male sexual paraphernalia.
  • Language: Four-letter words are scattered throughout with f- being the curse word of choice. God’s name is also misused numerous times.
  • Sex/Nudity: One of the characters is obsessed with the effects that steroids have on his love life—and crude references and jokes about his genitalia are present throughout. At one point he goes to a doctor (there’s graphic discussion of his condition) for injections. A sex scene involves nunchucks and lots of crude talk. Strippers are seemingly ever-present, and  occasionally, they’re shown topless. One character snorts cocaine off a female’s bare backside. Not surprisingly, women are consistently objectified throughout and shown in very skimpy (or none at all) clothes. Gay sex toys figure into the plot, and we see glimpses of same-sex activity. Paul is hit on by a gay priest.
  • Alcohol/Drugs: Social drinking, smoking and illegal drug use depicted.
  • Religion: Paul turned to Jesus while in jail and tries to remain committed to his newfound spiritual conviction. After saying he can’t kill anyone, his pesky violent streak erupts with a vengeance.

Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the MeddlersBased in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.

Publication date: April 26, 2013