A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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?
Michael Bay, best known for his loud, explosive action movies, 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.
Talk to your kids 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 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?
- In theaters: April 26, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: August 27, 2013
- Cast: Anthony Mackie, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Mark Wahlberg
- Director: Michael Bay
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use
For kids who love action comedies
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.