Pain & Gain



Violent, stupid, offensive, unfunny "true crime" story.
  • Review Date: April 24, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 130 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The entire movie is about greedy characters who are trying to get ahead in the world by doing illegal things. Though there are consequences for their actions, the movie tries to make these activities look like fun (or at least funny). The movie also makes fun of large women, treats most other women as sex objects, and includes other stereotypes.

Positive role models

The main character decides to go after what he thinks he deserves in life. But that decision involves all kinds of illegal and shady activities. He bullies others into joining him, and he even bullies several kids while playing basketball. Another character starts out reformed and religious but winds up a murderer and a junkie. Even the movie's victims, the supposedly law-abiding citizens, are awful, hateful people.


Characters are kidnapped and beaten up. There are several attempted (but failed) murders. A character is blown up in a car and then run over (he survives). Other characters are tortured (pliers to the nose, burning, more), killed (either by accident or on purpose), and have their bodies dismembered. Their hands are cut off and barbecued (!) to remove the fingerprints. There are several fight scenes with punching and blood. One character is slammed with a barbell weight, and another is squashed under a weight (lots of blood is shown). There's a chase and a shootout, and a character loses a toe. Cruelty/yelling between characters.


Several topless women are seen in a club scene. The main character has (comical) sex with a woman against the back of a car (no nudity shown). A character's stripper girlfriend is portrayed as kinky. A warehouse filled with sex toys/objects is shown. A character tries to masturbate (under his clothes) to a porn tape (nothing graphic shown). Women are generally treated as dumb sex objects, shown in tight exercise outfits. Lots of skimpy outfits (both male and female) in gym scenes. A character struggles with impotence as a result of the steroids he takes. A T-shirt with the Penthouse magazine logo is shown.


Language is extremely strong and nearly constant. Words include "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "c--k," "c--t," "d--k," "balls," "ass," "a--hole," "bitch," "t-tty," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," "crap," "vagina," "penis," "homo," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), "oh my God," "whore," "slut," "turd," and more. Some disparaging remarks based on race.


Characters shop at a Home Depot, twice. A character wears a Nike tank top. The Penthouse logo appears on a shirt.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One of the main characters is a recovering cocaine addict who relapses and starts snorting cocaine again. His problem is treated comically. Characters inject steroids at the gym to build bigger muscles. The main characters kidnap a man and force him to drink alcohol. Characters also occasionally drink wine and smoke cigars.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Pain & Gain is a vulgar, violent action comedy from Transformers director Michael Bay. The movie -- which was inspired by a real-life kidnapping, extortion, and murder -- is filled with shooting, chasing, fighting, and blood, as well as more gruesome, torturous images like barbecuing severed hands to remove the fingerprints. Sexuality is also prevalent in the movie; there's some female toplessness and comical sex, and women are treated as dumb sex objects. One character is a drug addict who tries to recover but fails; he's shown snorting cocaine, with results that are played for humor. Language is extremely strong and frequent, with constant use of "f--k," "s--t," and more. The fact that these greedy characters and their illegal, brutal plans are treated with humor makes this movie very iffy for just about any audience.

What's the story?

Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) -- a personal trainer at a Florida gym circa 1995 -- decides to be a "doer" so that he can get all the things he thinks he deserves. His plan is to kidnap a wealthy delicatessen owner (Tony Shalhoub) and get him to sign over his fortune. Daniel enlists the aid of two other weightlifters: ex-con/recovering cocaine addict Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), who suffers from impotence as a result of his steroid use but has a predilection for large women. After some initial success, their plan goes desperately wrong, and all their brain-dead attempts to recover it result in disaster after disaster. The plot is based on a true story.

Is it any good?


Director Michael Bay, who's best known for his loud, explosive action movies (like the Bad Boys and Transformers series), takes a step back with this relatively cheaper film, concentrating on fewer special effects and more characters. Unfortunately, this is like watching a chef doing the dishes; it's not his strong suit. PAIN & GAIN winds up being one of Bay's stupider and more tasteless efforts, though it's a good deal more tasteless than stupid.

Movies about dumb criminals can be highly entertaining (Fargo, for example), but Bay sends his story spinning wildly over the top. His characters are aggravatingly idiotic, the mood is belligerent, and the pacing is erratic. But worst of all is the humor. Bay may be the least funny director alive, and he insists on using an endless array of cruel, horrible jokes -- about fat people, drug addicts, women in general, and just about everyone else. Only Ed Harris, playing a private detective, provides any dignity.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Pain & Gain's violence. How is it depicted? Is it gross? Funny? Does it seem over-the-top or inappropriate?

  • How does the movie portray women? Are they judged by their body type? Are there any positive female role models here? Stereotypes?

  • How does the movie view male body image? Is it positive or negative?

  • Are there any examples of bullying in the movie? Where and how?

  • What's funny about dumb criminals?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 26, 2013
DVD release date:August 27, 2013
Cast:Anthony Mackie, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Mark Wahlberg
Director:Michael Bay
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:130 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use

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Learning ratings

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 4 year old Written byMadMamaK April 26, 2013

Bad Review

I just wanted to say how ridiculous and asinine Mr. Anderson's review of this movie is. Sir, this should have been an informational article not an editorial. You act as if the movie was made for children using adult material. The movie was not in any way intended for a youth audience. Get off your high horse. This movie was not made for children, don't review it as if it were.
Parent of an infant, 5, 7, 10, 14, and 18 year old Written byJoejoejoejoe April 27, 2013

Good movie

As long as they know t word c word v word w word and sl word
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written byStemma21 April 29, 2013

Funny story of just how greedy and stupid people can be

This movie has dismemberment and a bit aviolence, but not too much. Constant swearing, and tons of sexual content throughout. Drug use scattered, overall a mature movie. It is funny, and I think well done.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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