Fact vs Fiction of Pain and Gain

STORY BY Talia Aroshas

Published: May 20, 2013

It’s not everyday that a dark comedy about a trio of ridiculously good looking body- building murderous thieves come into theatres; so needless to say that when one did, I was right in the front row highly anticipating its assured brilliance.

Pain and Gain sets out to take on the cringe worthy story of body builder Daniel Lugo and the Sun Gym Gang—which, believe it or not, was actually their name. And the filmmakers want you to know, from the very beginning of the movie, that the story is true, or as they say, “What follows is a true story, unfortunately.” Why? Because that is where most of the humor lies---in the fact that people this stupid actually exist/existed. But after some research I have to beg the question….did they?

For those who have not seen the movie, I warn you, you are about to be spoiled.

The story hails from the land where all tales involving corpulent stupidity do—Florida. And the basic facts are true, Daniel Lugo was a fitness enthusiast who held a management title at Miami’s Sun Gym. However, he was not the idiotic dingbat that the script, or Mark Wahlbergs portrayal of him, would have us believe. Rather, he was a calculative, skilled, throughout criminal with a dubious record involving fraud and medicare scams.  So where Movie Lugo conceives a faulty plan to kidnap a client millionaire and torture him until he agrees to sign over all of his assets, Real Life Lugo, well, he also conceived a faulty plan to kidnap a non-client millionaire and torture him until he agreed to sign over all of his assets---he just did it with more finesse as brought on by experience.

Other interesting fact to fiction details includes the characters of Adrian Doorball and Paul Doyle, played by Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson, respectively. Firstly, as opposed to the comedic, relatively harmless portrayal he is given in the movie, Doorball was actually somewhat of a violent jackass who was prone to violence and was, “the kind of guy you’d imagine killing cats and dogs as a kid.” As a matter of fact, the death of the gang’s second target, Frank Gringa, was at the hands of Doorball and not Lugo, as it was portrayed in the movie.

As for Paul Doyle, well, in real life, he was really three people—but I guess comedy comes in threes so filmmakers decided to stick with a trio. That being said, it seems as though the character was mostly inspired by Carl Weekes who had found Jesus as an ex-con and moved to Miami for a new way of life before getting entangled with the wicked ways of the Sun Gang.

But as the filmmakers insist on the movie’s poster, and even up until about 30 minutes before the stories ending, “this is a still a true story.”

However, how true to character or not the story is, the basics do seem to be true: that a group of body builders from a gym in Miami sought wealth and fortune by kidnapping, killing, and, yes, grilling innocent rich victims.  Who, side note, weren’t so innocent as victim one’s real life persona, Marc Shiller, was latter convicted of $14 million worth of Medicare Scams.

And it is this disturbing truth, as well as Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson’s hilarious and brilliant performance as a ex-con turned Jesus devout that keeps us enticed, disgusted, conflicted, and best/worst of all, laughing out loud.

A fantastic depiction of lurid obsession man has for money—and the lengths he will go to get it, as well as why nobody should ever live in Florida, Pain and Gain is, ultimately, a very entertaining flick.

However, be warned, if gruesome body chopping, blood, violence, and asinine body building isn’t your thing, you may want to see The Big Wedding instead. 

Other Stories by Talia Aroshas
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