The James Clayton Column: Preparing for Pain & Gain

Michael Bay's muscle-bound comedy thriller Pain & Gain is on the horizon, so James explains how we can all prepare for the experience...

I’m pumped, man! Pumped! What am I pumped about? Pain & Gain, man! Pain & Gain!

If you didn’t know, Pain & Gain is Michael Bay’s new movie, and it’s a smaller scale affair than the kind of feature he’s renowned for. Blockbuster Bayhem fans need not fear, though, for here ‘smaller scale’ is mainly a question of special effects prominence and overall budget (about $25 million, which is the kind of ‘small’ that would make my accountant very, very happy).

There may not be giant shapeshifting alien robots in this fresh action-comedy-crime film, but Pain & Gain still impresses itself on my mind as a ‘big’ film. Michael Bay doesn’t do things that fly under the radar or sit brooding quietly in the corner. The movie’s tagline is “Their American Dream is bigger than yours”. What’s more, Pain & Gain is star-packed with the likes of Anthony Mackie and Ed Harris in a cast fronted by the power-duo of Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Wahlberg – note his forceful power in such films as The Fighter, The Departed and Boogie Nights – is one thing, but Johnson is another thing altogether. There is nothing small or even medium-sized about the wrestling veteran who stands 6ft 9in tall and weighs over 250lbs.

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The Rock can knock small moons out of their orbital trajectory simply by raising his eyebrow and, thus, he would’ve been really useful to have around when that asteroid was coming at Earth in Bay’s Armageddon. You can get insight into the man’s mental fortitude simply by looking at his tweets, which run along the lines of: “Set your tone and tempo right now… 100%. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But you ain’t ‘everyone’.” (Hashtagged “Bring It” and at that point I flip off Twitter and go and bring it 100%, oorah!)

Of course, the main source of Johnson’s physical intimidation – aside from his expressive Pharaoh (Scorpion King?) face, might-mentality and mountain-shunting motivational spiel as disseminated through social media – is his physique. Built like a handsome boulder sculpted by the dextrous hands of Zeus – his next role is Hercules, after all – His Rockness’ physiognomy is the kind that our awestruck ancient ancestors would describe as ‘Olympian’.

The muscles of a demigod and the stature of a titan, Therockules has the sort of presence that makes you forgive or forget about all the flaws of the film around because, damn, he’s just such an impressive physical specimen. In this respect he’s the heir to Arnold Schwarzenegger – it doesn’t matter how bad Hercules In New York is or how stupid Commando is at times, because you’re held transfixed by the immense Mr Universe physique of the über-macho lead.

Get Johnson with all his charm and clout alongside Wahlberg for a bodybuilding blockbuster crime film that just happens to be directed by Michael Bay and you’ve got a cocktail for a testosterone-fuelled flick that cinema screens may struggle to contain.

Once again, this is ‘big’ and it’s a big beeping light on my movie radar. It did big business on its US release which leads me to the annoying reality that atrophies all the pumped-up energy a little. For some reason – and that reason isn’t going to be a valid reason – Pain & Gain isn’t showing in UK cinemas until the end of August. Britain has been left bereft. There is no Pain & Gain and thus we feel pain and simultaneously struggle to see what we gain from staggered international movie release schedules.

I’m impatient, but hanging back and reassessing the delay in Pain & Gain’s deliverance I can actually come to find positives. I’m like Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, except I’m not wearing a bin bag or quaffing meds as I work out and work up my optimism. The hold-up can be used to our advantage and, in fact, allows us extra time to properly ready ourselves for the hotly-anticipated spectacle.

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A ‘big’ movie like this demands more preparation than other meeker pictures. You’ve got to enter this cinematic entertainment pumped up, mentally and physically. Set your tone and tempo right now. 100%. Pain & Gain is not a flick you idly enter into half-heartedly. This is an experience which wants your 100% and which you should live 100%. Bring it!

The wait until August 23rd for British cinemagoers like me is beneficial in that it enables us to (literally) build up to Pain & Gain. I’m not ready and I’m pretty sure that you’re not as ready as you could be so let’s breakdown what we can do over the next month-or-so to make sure that we’re truly 100% pumped for this action…

Pump iron and work out

You need to empathise with the antihero bodybuilders of Pain & Gain and by hitting the gym and emulating their lifestyle you’ll soon find affinity with ’em. What’s more you’ll be getting ripped in the process which boosts your all-round health and wellbeing as a bonus. Raise those barbells! Do those push-ups! Squat-thrust like a beast! Beast that punchbag! Show those weights who’s the frickin’ boss and feel the burn! Feel that rush? That would be the endorphins and the sheer adrenaline and knowledge that you’re a mighty tough mutha packin’ pure muscle. You’re pumped, both to see Pain & Gain and as a physical fact, buddy.

Read the original articles that inspired the movie

Its ‘bodybuilders’ kidnap scheme’ synopsis may seem far-fetched to the unimaginative but Pain & Gain is, in fact, based on a true story. The film has been adapted from a series of articles by Pete Collins which were published in the Miami New Times in 1999. Screenwriters Markus Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus may have taken significant divergences from actual reality but that doesn’t matter much – it’s still the story of the Sun Gym Gang and grounding yourself in the non-fiction basis you might actually appreciate the movie more. In timely fashion the articles have now been compiled into a book so in theory you could download it to an e-reader and skim it while you’re on a cross trainer or, alternatively, get your towel-flunky to bark it at you while you’re lifting weights.

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Watch lots of Michael Bay movies

This may be low-budget Bay and a more intimate, less explosive affair from the auteur of the high-octane, but it’s still Bay. There will be Bayhem, and in order to truly understand Pain & Gain as a unique picture in the director’s oeuvre, it may be a good idea to watch or rewatch his earlier works. I personally am pretty ignorant when it comes to Michael Bay’s extensive filmography. By finally watching some Transformers flicks and Bad Boys II, I may come to fully grasp one of Hollywood’s most enigmatic artists and thus enhance my Pain & Gain experience.

Take lots of steroids

Use and abuse performance-enhancing drugs to aid your bodybuilding and thus supplement the movie screening by being even more externally and internally pumped up! Actually, no. Drugs are wrong, kids, and you shouldn’t do them. They’ll give you terrible moodswings, make you sprout abnormal body hair and render you impotent. Stay clean and opt for a goji berry, banana and unicorn steak-flavoured protein shake instead.

Allow yourself to be handled and moulded by Zeus almighty

Aspire to be a modern Hercules and if you can’t do that with hard gym work and performance-enhancing substances you’re going to have to appeal to divine powers. March up to the apex of Mount Olympus, give yourself to the great Zeus and find yourself revitalised as a demigod with superhuman strength and a reputation that makes the underworld quake in fear. You may be required to perform 12 almost-impossible labours to pay back this boon and you may in fact find yourself animated into a goofy Disney cartoon but don’t worry about it too much. By the gods, you’ll be a muscular demigod and you’ll be in the perfect mental and physical state to immerse yourself in the majestic physical theatre of Pain & Gain.

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Mainline Dwayne Johnson’s Twitter feed and then “bring it”

100%. If you need motivation you know which social media outlet will stir you from listless apathy and inspire you to action. Absorb the wisdom and digitalised aura of the former world wrestling champion and soon you’ll find that no obstacle is insurmountable. Get @TheRock on your feed fizzing with his positive mental attitude and inspirational impetus (“Turnin’ it up”, “Let’s roll”, etc.) and feel the contagious compulsion to bring it 100%. Thus spake Johnson: “Put in the work, grab it by the throat and don’t let go.”

Pumped for Pain & Gain yet? Stop reading this article! Go out and put in that work! Get pumped! 100! Pain & Gain! Bring it!

James Clayton is aware that there is no pain without gain and no gain without pain and that’s a beautiful philosophical point that rhythmically reassures you that suffering is a rewarding experience. If you disagree, you pitiful wuss, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will enlighten you. You can visit his website (that would be James’, not The Rock’s) or follow him on TwitterYou can read James’ previous column here.

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