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Film / Pain & Gain

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And they screw their dream over even bigger than you ever could.

"My name is Daniel Lugo, and I believe in fitness."

Pain & Gain is a 2013 dark comedy film directed by Michael Bay and based on a series of 1999 Miami New Times articles by Pete Collins about "a couple of Florida steroid-abusing knucklehead bodybuilders who become criminals involved in an extortion ring and a kidnapping plot that goes horribly awry." It stars Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo, Dwayne Johnson as Paul Doyle, and Anthony Mackie as Adrian Doorbal.

Daniel is a mainstay of the Miami personal fitness community, who's very proud of what he does but has to work hard to make a living. Seeing a wealthy client of his, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), and knowing some of the underhanded tricks he pulled to gain his fortune, Daniel hatches a plan to steal his money and brings in his friends Adrian and Paul to help him carry it out.

They prove themselves wholly incompetent, as even though they get Kershaw's money they were unable to kill him, and his story is so outrageous the police don't give him a second thought.

The "Sun Gym Gang" celebrates their new wealth but Kershaw sends in a private investigator Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) to track down their methods and soon after law enforcement follows.

Not to be confused with the trope of the same name.

Pain & Gain contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Victor keeps calling Daniel things like "Denny Lupo" while working out at the Sun Gym. He gets his name right, though, calling him "Danny" when he admits he knows him because of the smell of his cologne.
  • Accidental Murder: Daniel ends up killing one of their targets unintentionally by causing a stacked barbell to drop on the guy's head. Daniel himself frames it as an accident, but it's mostly because he's so stupid, as he was kicking the bench in rage after beating the guy up.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • At one point Paul (played by Dwayne Johnson) threatens a man with a bat, saying something along the lines of, "I used to use an aluminum one, but then I upgraded to wood." In Be Cool, Johnson's character Elliot is ridiculed for selecting an aluminium bat instead of a wooden one.
    • When Ed Harris pretends to be a client at the gym, he says he works in "lawn and garden." He spent several years doing all of the commercial voice-overs and radio ads for Home Depot.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: A downplayed example with Robin Peck. She is more of a Big Beautiful Woman in the film while her real life counterpart Cindy Eldridge was a slim fitness enthusiast.
  • Adapted Out: The real Daniel Lugo was married to Adrian Doorbal's cousin at the time the Sun Gym Gang was beginning to get together, and had an ex-wife who filed for divorce when he was in jail a few years prior. In the movie, Lugo appears to be single, with no references made to an ex-wife or current wife/girlfriend.
  • Agony of the Feet: Paul's big toe is shot off by the cops as he's fleeing after mugging a bank guard; he later gives the toe to Griga's dog.
  • All Jews Are Ashkenazi: In spite of Kershaw being from Colombia (based on a man from Argentina), he still addresses his rabbi in Yiddish.
  • Ambition Is Evil: One of the biggest themes of the film.
  • Anti-Villain: Paul Doyle. He didn't want to be part of the kidnapping at all but was persuaded by Daniel and Adrian into doing so and felt guilty the entire time. Him actually embracing his guilt and genuinely trying to atone for it by cooperating saves him from the electric chair, unlike Daniel and Adrian.
  • Apathetic Citizens: The citizens of Miami apparently aren't fazed by the Sun Gym gang's antics: No one, not even Victor, thinks the crew's second kidnapping attempt with costumes and a giant van is worth a second glance; none of the people walking around Danny seems to notice him violently beating a suitcase to death after his first attempt to use Victor's "contracts" fails; the clerk at Home Depot isn't terribly bothered by the "fur" ( Griga's girlfriend's hair and blood) clogging up the chainsaw Lugo and Doorbal try to return.
  • Artistic License Religion: Kershaw states that he is "half Jewish," in spite of being obviously observant. While it's common for nonreligious people with Jewish ancestry to describe themselves as being a portion Jewish, in religious terms there is no such thing as being "half Jewish." One is either Jewish or not.
  • Asshole Victim: The film keeps the tone lighter by making the Sun Gym's victims as obnoxious as possible. It's a plot point with Victor Kershaw, causing the police to disregard his story because he's a "very difficult victim to like."
  • The Atoner: Paul became one after his first stay in prison, and is very uncomfortable with the plan the whole time; the guilt actually seems to be what causes him to fall off the wagon and start doing cocaine again. He becomes one again when he's sent back to prison at the end. Ed even says he seems to embrace it.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The majority of the plot hinges on Daniel selling the plan with so much confidence that the utter stupidity of it all whizzes past their heads.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Daniel arranges for the gym to have a lot of attractive people (including deals for strippers to join) to increase the clientele. This contrasts with women who are shown to be really unattractive, but with hints of Daniel being an Unreliable Narrator at these points.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Danny when trying to scam Griga for his money as an "investment". He gets angry over Griga's "The Reason You Suck" Speech calling him a lazy, inexperienced businessman (Danny is not a businessman, just a thief and con artist). Danny proceeds to beat Griga to a pulp insisting he truly does work hard and isn't an amateur.
  • Berserk Button: Don't insult Danny's intelligence, background, or skills.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": John Mese shouts one to a group of female clients at his gym doing yoga when he couldn't hear Kershaw on the other end of the phone, as when Mese tried getting Kershaw's address to give to Lugo.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Victor may be a massive Jerkass, but he's a lot more sympathetic in comparison to Lugo.
  • Black Comedy: The film sure does play like one, even during the darker moments of the film.
  • Blatant Lies: Paul, who is bald, runs into a hair salon in order to avoid the security guards chasing him, saying he's there for a trim.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and closes with Lugo saying the top quote.
  • Brainless Beauty: Sorina, who easily buys Daniel's story about him and the others being CIA agents and of Daniel's lie that he one time was stuck in a tree without food as a little boy. She even seems to still believe everything he said when testifying at their trial.
  • Bromance: There are some serious guy-love vibes.
  • The Bully: Kershaw. He made fun of fat people and poor people.
  • Butt-Monkey: Kershaw spends most of his screentime being tortured or made fun of. Also John Mese, the Sun Gym manager that is coerced into participating the scheme by Daniel.
  • The Cassandra: Ed Du Bois is the only human being who catches on the fact the main trio are vicious criminals. Nobody takes him seriously.
  • Celebrity Cameo: Kurt Angle as an inmate Doyle fights with during his first incarceration. Yes indeed, it's The Rock, fresh off a WWE Championship loss at WrestleMania at the time of the film's release, versus someone who was then a mainstay of TNA.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Sorina mentions the plot of Pretty Woman at one point. Larry Hankin, who plays Pastor Randy, played a landlord in Pretty Woman.
  • Chainsaw Good: Zig-zagged. It gets jammed by hair rather easily, but then Daniel complains it's a cheap piece of China crap.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Victor recognizes Daniel as one of his kidnappers despite his attempts to put on a phony accent because he's wearing the same cologne he complained about during an earlier training session.
  • Chubby Chaser: Adrian, who goes after Robin, the fat nurse treating his erectile dysfunction.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Paul's cocaine addiction left him a little bit off.
    • Lugo has his moments as well.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Daniel, Adrian, and Paul are the worst fucking offenders.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Daniel offers to show the wives in a neighborhood watch how to defend themselves against a potential rapist, Sorina plays the "victim". Daniel asks for volunteers, and several husbands raise their hands. Daniel snarks that this isn't a gang rape, reminding the husbands what they were offered to do.
  • Composite Character: Johnson's character Doyle is fictional, a combination of two or three additional members of the Sun Gym Gang.
  • Compensating for Something: Adrian, who gets involved to pay for ways to make his penis work again. His ex-wife outright states that he frequently worked on his physique to compensate for having a small penis.
  • Cool Boat: Victor's cigarette boat which Danny steals to get to Victor's off-shore bank in the Bahamas, which is one of the things he misses most.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ed Du Bois.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: It is pointed out the story would have ended way sooner if anyone had just bothered to listen to Du Bois.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ed Du Bois, sometimes.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of The American Dream. Daniel Lugo and his fellow conspirators are not Self-Made Men who worked hard to achieve the high life, but a bunch of roided-up Stupid Crooks who attempt to kidnap, steal, murder, and bullshit their way to the top, and fall from it just as quickly because of their own short-sightnedness and mistakes. Even their victim, who is really the closest to embodying the American Dream (who worked two jobs in college to start a modestly succesful pizza business) is a massive Jerkass. The film even has most of the visual excess (shot like some of the cheesier music videos of the day) during scenes where Daniel discusses what he thinks the dream is.
  • Dirty Old Monk: Pastor Randy gets violently attacked by Paul after he comes on to him, thus leading Paul on the path toward Daniel and the Sun Gym Gang. He still acts as a source of emotional and spiritual support for Paul when he decides to confess his crimes to the authorities.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Griga is chosen for kidnapping after one bad interaction with Paul at the strip club months ago. Though it's also because he's the richest man the Sun Gym Gang knew other than Kershaw.
  • Driven to Villainy: Paul objects to Daniel's kidnapping plan from the start and only goes along with it after he's promised that they won't physically hurt anyone. From there he gets progressively dragged further into the scheme and is eventually urged to kill the victim. His ensuing addiction to cocaine makes him spiral further out of control until he atones for his crimes and professes his guilt to the authorities.
  • Dumb Jock: Daniel, Adrian and Paul are three bodybuilders who are also incredibly stupid, which ends up being the main reason their plot falls apart.
  • Dumb Muscle: This film is a case study in what happens when an entire criminal team is nothing but dumb muscle.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Paul Doyle. By the end, he choses to confess his crimes to atone for everything that happened. He gets sentenced for 15 years, but he only serves 7 and embraces Christianity, though he continues apologizing.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: After practically cooking Victor alive, Lugo pressures Paul into running him over. Adrian is visibly shaken by some of the stuff that Lugo says.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Though he doesn't die, Lugo's final narration seems that he's okay with dying because in his mind, "life will give me another set".
  • Fanservice: A LOT of muscular guys in tank tops or shirtless. Also lots of women in spandex, and the strip club scene.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Don't let Lugo's initially affable demeanor and "Can do" attitude fool you; He's a compulsive liar, manipulator and selfish bastard quick to sell out others to save his skin.
  • Foil: The young, muscular, stupid and aggressive Daniel Lugo is hunted by the old, frail, cunning and even-tempered Ed Du Bois.
    • Lugo and his young crew's intense longing for a shortcut to The American Dream and dissatisfaction with their current lives, and their older victims who actually achieved the dream and were shown to be very happy with their lives.
  • Five Stages of Grief: After being forced to tell his wife and son to evacuate to Columbia, Kershaw starts crying in anguish. Paul asks for Lugo on what to do to make him stop, and Lugo responds to just wait for him to stop. Kershaw then displays anger at his captors, then pleads for Paul to help him escape crying that he just wants to see his son.
  • Framing Device: It's actually not spelled out all that clearly but every major character takes turns telling their story, which by the end is shown to be their testimonies at their trials at the end.
  • Fruit Cart: At one point, Kershaw chased Daniel down in the middle of market, knocking over several carts.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    Danny: Do you know what fear is?
    Paul: "False Evidence Appearing Real"? note 
    Danny: You know Johnny Wu?!
    Paul: That's from Alcoholics Anonymous!
  • Fun with Subtitles: Occasionally the movie will pause, and a written message will flash on screen, including a list of cocaine side-effects and a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer.
  • Gag Penis: Shows up three times:
    • Paul, whose KO'ing of a pastor who hit on him helped drive him into Lugo's influence, is rather disturbed (yet fascinated) that the warehouse they got to hold Victor is filled with sex toys, including a wall of giant dildos.
    • Adrian is shown marveling at a pair of fancy electric dildos ("There's some complex engineering in these things").
    • The detectives who interview Victor at the hospital hold up the charred remains of a giant dildo, the presence of which made them think means he's just a degenerate who went on a bender.
  • Girly Skirt Twirl: After Sorina goes shopping for dresses she spins around wearing one.
  • Good-Times Montage: The trio goes on one when they think they successfully pulled off their scheme.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong:
    • Paul's attempt to steal money from a bank guard which gets him splattered with green security dye, chased and shot at by cops who take off his big toe leads to...
    • The attempted kidnapping of Griga and his girlfriend they died before they could give the crew any useful information, the crew's sloppiness at hiding the crime got them all caught, and the police got a new way to identify murder victims after using the serial numbers on Griga's girlfriend's breast implants to ID her body.
  • Good is Not Nice: While he is arguably among the "good guys" in a film whose protagonists are the bad guys, Victor Kershaw is established from the start as an arrogant bully. Later on, as Du Bois assists him with his case, he is extremely rude and uncooperative despite the fact that Du Bois is the only one who is taking his case seriously.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The actual crushing of Griga's head is hidden, as is the removal of their hands.
  • Greed: Lugo doesn't just want Victor's stuff, he wants to Victor to "not have it". He even steals the contents of Victor's safety deposit box after declaring his disappointment that it was just old photos and a pair of bronzed baby shoes.
  • Greedy Jew: Kershaw's Jewishness is emphasized in the first half of the film, where he spends a lot of time talking about his various sleazy business dealings. He wears a Star of David necklace, hosts a Sabbath dinner and makes a call to his rabbi, saluting him in Yiddish: "Gut yontiff!"
  • Guile Hero: Ed Du Bois is the only individual in this movie who can be even remotely described as clever.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Both Daniel and Paul snap at things that seem very insignificant in hindsight. Paul regrets this, while Daniel seems to embrace it. It seems a lot like typical steroid aggression.
  • Happily Married:
    • A minor subplot shows Ed DuBois's tender and loving relationship with his wife. We last see them enjoying the sunset on their back porch, which adds meaning when he talks about enjoying the small things in life in contrast to what the Sun Gym Gang had done for easy money.
    • Doorbal and his wife, the nurse, were happily married until Doorbal is arrested and she testifies against him in court.
    • While not married Griga appears to be quite happy with his girlfriend and very proud of her skills as a phone sex operator.
  • Hard Boiled Detective: Ed Harris as Ed Du Bois III.
  • Harmful to Minors: After Daniel moves into his victim's home, he starts "coaching" the neighborhood kids. This involves showing a group of 10-year old kids to do bodybuilding exercises of such intensity that their growing bodies are still too young for and tells them how important it is to get a hot lady when Paul walks in with their stripper girlfriend.
  • Hero Antagonist: Ed DuBois is one of the only characters in the movie that can be considered heroic and is trying to solve the case of the Sun Gym Gang.
  • Heroic Build: Not exactly "heroic" but the physically powerful look of the main characters is a major part of the story. Even parodied as they go to a hospital to finish off Kershaw dressed as doctors... incredibly ripped doctors, and some of the staff talk about the crazy guy who claimed to be beaten up by bodybuilders.
  • Historical Beauty Update:
    • The end credits gives a Where Are They Now overview with pictures of the actual people involved, both Lugo and Doorbal are significantly more average looking than Wahlberg and Mackie. Although Sorina (whose name was changed from the real life counterpart) looks remarkably similar.
    • The Sun Gym itself is given an upgrade; the photo in the end credits definitely does not look like the sparkling white building in the film.
    • Carl Weekes and Stevenson Pierre were considered too scrawny at first to hang with Lugo and Doorbal. Their fictional counterpart Paul Doyle is played by Dwayne Johnson who bulked up more than usual, and weighs about as much as them combined.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Marc Schiller was arrested by federal agents on charges of orchestrating a Medicare billing scheme through his nutritional companies. Jorge Degaldo, one of his abductors, testified against him, though Schiller swears to this day that he is innocent. Victor Kershaw, the character based on Schiller, is depicted as being a fat-shaming bully at worst, with no indication he ever defrauded anyone.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: The film depicts Adrian Doorbal as a relaxed, even-tempered man who treats his girlfriend, and later wife, Robin with nothing but love and respect, and is appalled when Lugo kills Frank Griga. According to Marc Schiller, the real life Doorbal "loved violence" and took sadistic glee in torturing him. It was also Doorbal, not Daniel Lugo, who killed Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton, and unlike in the film, this appears to not have been an accident; he crushed Griga's head with a blunt object, strangled him and then finished him off with an injection of horse tranquilizer. It was Lugo, not Doorbal, who tried to pacify Furton with horse tranquilizer. Doorbal also allegedly married his girlfriend Cindy Eldridge, on whom Robin is based, to keep her from testifying against him and got involved with a woman who worked in his lawyer's office while he was still married to Eldridge, who later filed for divorce so she could testify against him. Doorbal's marriage to Eldridge only lasted four days.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Zig-zagged with Robin Peck, who is based on Adrien Doorbal's real-life girlfriend Cindy Eldridge. Eldridge helped Doorbal get rid of the evidence Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton's deaths by scrubbing blood off the floors and was charged as an accessory after the fact. However, she apparently did not know where the blood came from and claims that Doorbal married her to keep her from testifying against him. In the movie, Robin Peck knew nothing of Doorbal's murders either but she did see blood stains left on the floors and the evidence Doorbal threw away into the garbage which she kept quiet about. She testifies against Doorbal even divorcing him before her testimony to acquit herself from neglecting to report what she saw.
  • How We Got Here: The film starts with the cops going after Daniel, and then flashing back to 6 months earlier.
  • Jerkass: Victor Kershaw explicitly, and Daniel implicitly.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Victor sounds sincerely worried when he's telling his wife to get their son and leave; Lugo is disappointed to discover Victor's top-secret off-shore safety deposit box is only filled with old family photos (possibly the only things left of his father's life in Germany) and a pair of bronzed baby shoes. He takes it anyway.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Lugo thinks of himself as a Genius Bruiser mastermind, but he's pretty much the Moe of the trio.
  • Lack of Empathy: Lugo has absolutely no regard for the suffering he causes.
  • Large Ham: Quite a few of the players, but Lugo is easily the one chewing up the scenery in some parts.
  • Lima Syndrome: Paul shows fairly early on that he's less bad than Daniel and Adrian due to his interactions with their victim Victor. While Daniel and Adrian proceed to torture the guy during their guard shifts to extort him, Paul instead gives him stuff to eat, reads to him and tries to convert him to Christianity in a misguided attempt to "help" the half-Jewish Victor. When Victor tries to make a break for it Paul beats him to the ground however, as he has no delusions that it's not a genuine kidnapping.
  • Line-of-Sight Name:
    • After moving into Kershaw's house, Daniel introduces himself to his new neighbor (while mowing the lawn) as "Tom... Lawn".
    • A variation, Paul gains the gun shop clerk's trust by claiming they're security for a band whose name he sees on a sticker on a register.
  • Made of Iron: Kershaw takes a truly staggering amount of punishment as the main trio tries to off him, but survives every turn. This more or less follows the real story.
  • Manchild: Paul acts like a big kid at times. This is actually what makes him the most sympathetic of all three protagonists.
  • Man Hug
  • Manipulative Bastard: Lugo manipulates every single of his cohorts, especially Paul.
  • Market-Based Title: "No pain, no gain" in at least France.
    • Brazil used the same phrase, but in its own language: "Sem Dor, Sem Ganho".
    • In Russia the movie is titled "Blood and Sweat: Steroids".
  • Mean Boss: Victor treats his employees at the sandwich shop like crap. They liked their new boss Daniel.
  • Meaningful Name: When Paul decides to join Daniel in his plan to kidnap Kershaw, his flashback shows why Pastor Randy is so aptly named.
  • Meta Casting: A director version: the writers said they loved Michael Bay taking on the script because they felt like the characters believed they were in a Michael Bay movie.
  • Mood-Swinger: Paul, later in the movie, due the effects of cocaine (as pointed out by the Fun with Subtitles). He zig-zags between cheerful, remorseful and stoic.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Take a wild guess. It's cheating if you look at the poster.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Sorina, who is the female character that gets prominently displayed the most in the entire movie. Griga's girlfriend isn't half bad-looking either and as said above her enhancements wind up helping her after she's killed.
  • Never My Fault: Lugo constantly pulls this on his cohorts, despite the fact it was his fault for getting them into the situation in the first place.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers for the film made it appear as if the Sun Gym Gang were pulling off some wacky heist against an unscrupulous crime boss. The movie, however, does not present the protagonists on the whole as even remotely sympathetic, portrays the victims sympathetically and has the Sun Gym Gang do some fairly gruesome things.
  • Nice Guy: Downplayed in that he's still involved with Lugo's schemes and has his own set of issues, but Paul is this when he isn't screwed up on cocaine or being influenced by Lugo. He's polite and friendly on his own, and he's the only one who shows any genuine guilt for what happens. Even before the trio kidnap Kershaw, he makes it clear he doesn't want anyone to get hurt. It's lampshaded by Kershaw, who tells him he's much nicer than Daniel or Adrian (albeit through an attempt to play to Paul's nature to try and escape). By the end, Paul is the only one who choses to atone for his crimes and tries to become a better person, compared to Daniel and Adrian, who remain scumbags and end up on death row.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Shows up three times: "Unfortunately, this is a true story" in the opening narration, a "this is still a true story" subtitle when Paul is barbequing the second victims' hands, and "sometimes truth is stranger than fiction" in the closing narration.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: The real Tom Vu, on whom Jonny Wu is based, is a Vietnamese immigrant and has a thick accent, as seen in these commercials. Ken Jeong plays the character in his normal, American accent.
  • Notary Nonsense: The whole plan almost falls apart after Kershaw is forced to sign over all his money and belongings, because the gang never got the paperwork notarized. Lugo, who never does seem to understand what a notary actually is, eventually bribes gym owner John (who got a notary license prior for unrelated reasons) to handle that for them, which gets him arrested too at the end of the movie.
  • Obliviously Evil: Adrian and Daniel are so stupid that they seem to be totally unaware that they have done several horrible things over the course of the movie. Paul is just about as stupid, but he eventually grew a conscience.
  • Off the Wagon: Paul's addiction to cocaine is the root of most of his problems: he robbed a house to get money which put him in prison, and after robbing Victor most of his cut "disappeared up his nose" which caused him to resort to mugging a security guard transporting money and after that failed he came up with the idea of kidnapping Griga which went completely wrong and ultimately got them all caught.
  • Occam's Razor/Hanlon's Razor: The sheer outlandish premise of Kershaw's story leads everyone to assume the more believable scenario, a drunken psychotic episode — no one could be both that cruel and that inept.
  • Only in Miami: Where sticky holders of the Villain Ball can pull off a kidnapping and get rich from the victim.
  • Only Sane Man: Ed Du Bois is probably the only logical and sane character in the 'whole' movie. All others do stupid errors, none moreso than our protagonists.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: The toe is still dripping blood however long it was between it getting shot off and Paul giving it to the dog, plus the next morning when it's found by Griga's maid.
  • Perfumigation: Danny's "stinky, awful, vanilla, disgusting cologne." Unlike most instances of this trope this is not just a gag but is a Chekhov's Gun relevant to the plot. Victor, who comments on Danny's unpleasant cologne during an exercise session, recognizes it again when he's kidnapped, and realizes who kidnapped him.
  • Pet the Dog: Literally: Adrian, as far as we're shown, and his wife are good owners to Victor's racing greyhound and are upset when it goes missing after the second victims are murdered (it ran all the way back to it's "home" racetrack with the Doorbals' address on its collar).
  • Police Are Useless: The Miami police write Kershaw's story off as "delusional alcoholism" and don't do anything about it. Even after Ed Du Bois presents a lot of evidence to them, they don't take any action because they're afraid it would make them look bad for ignoring Kershaw before (there is also a throwaway line about them believing Kershaw has ties with a Colombian drug cartel, meaning they didn't want to look like they were handling his dirty work). It isn't until after the Sun Gym gang claims two more victims that the police try to arrest them. Then averted when they finally take action, as they're able to apprehend the gang in short order without a lot of trouble.
  • Private Detective: Ed Du Bois, who got out of retirement because he liked doing that far more than fishing and golf.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Daniel Lugo. He behaves like a little boy and throws temper tantrums over simply verbal insults such as when he goes berserk and beats up Frank Griga just for calling him an amateurish unprofessional businessman.
    • In real life, Adrien Doorbal also fit this trope while the film depicted him as mild-mannered and calm.
  • Race Lift: The real-life Danny Lugo was Puerto Rican and Cuban rather than Irish. Also the real-life Doorbal was Trinidadian, but in the movie he's portrayed as African-American.
  • Rasputinian Death: Minus the victim actually dying, this is what the gang tries to do to Victor. Not intentionally however; their stupid preparation results in the victim surviving each time. They try to get him drunk and crash him in his car, but leave his seat belt on and his airbag in place. They try to burn him alive, only for him to get out of the car in time. Even driving their own car over his head ends up failing.
  • Real Men Hate Affection: Averted, as one of the main promotional items of this movie is how tender and emotional these burly body-builders are around each other.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Paul sure does and tries to get the half-Jewish Victor Kershaw to do so as well.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The movie ends with the credits showing the main cast with a picture of the real person they were portraying.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • The other reason the police don't believe Kershaw at first. As Ed says near the end during the trial, "sometimes truth is stranger than fiction".
    • There's also the bit with Paul barbecuing the severed hands, which got a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer.
  • Redemption Equals Life: Paul gets a crisis of conscience and ends up confessing. He ends up living with 15 years in prison while the other two get death sentences.
  • Religious Bruiser: Paul is a very religious man, but can also, as he puts it, "knock people the fuck out".
  • Roman Clef: Two names are stated to be changed, as they were survivors of the crimes.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Sort of. Daniel is partially motivated to the crime to get with one of the sexy clients he trains, but she is never seen or mentioned again after the gang kidnaps Kershaw. Played straight, however, with Sorina.
  • Saw It in a Movie Once
    I've watched a lot of movies Paul, I know what I'm doing...
  • Selective Historical Armory: The S.W.A.T unit that come to arrest the Sun Gym Gang use weapons and weapon attachments that weren't made until at least the mid-2000's. One of the most amusing examples of this trope is during the intro, when these very modern S.W.A.T officers with very modern weapons jump off of an armored car in a scene subtitled "June 17, 1995".
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Paul and Sorina's bill for their hotel room is $47,000 and that's not even getting into Paul's cocaine habit and Sorina's extravagant shopping.
  • Side Effects Include...: Parodied by pausing the movie and displaying a written message listing the side effects of cocaine.
  • Skewed Priorities: When Griga and his girlfriend are killed in their second attempt at extortion, all what Adrian can think of is of the mess was made and what his wife will think when she gets home.
    Adrian: I got forty eight holes in carpet!
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Lugo and Adrian think they are essentially gods amongst men because of their extremely muscular bodies.
  • The Sociopath: Daniel Lugo has exactly zero redeeming characteristics in the entire movie, and feels no remorse for any of his actions.
  • Static Stun Gun: The gang use a taser to immobilize Kershaw when they finally succeed in abducting him.
    Adrian: Do these tasers rock or what!
  • Stupid Crooks: Daniel, Adrian, and Paul. The entire film's plot hinges on the main characters being complete idiots who make mistake after mistake in their gruesome kidnapping and extortion plan. Ed Du Bois pretty much alludes to it by name by noting that they were convicted of all the crimes they committed except the biggest one: being deeply stupid.
  • Teeny Weenie: Adrian's steroid-ravaged manhood. His small penis is, humiliatingly, even made a matter of public record by his ex-wife.
  • Title Drop: Daniel is bullying some middle-school boys at basketball, knocking them around. When one kid he bowls over complains that it hurts, Daniel says that pain makes your cells grow stronger, and says "It's called pain and gain, Rusty!"
  • Token Good Teammate: Paul, somewhat, and Sorina definitely. Paul is essentially Driven to Villainy and Sorina just doesn't know any better.
  • Trash Landing: In the opening scene Daniel escapes police by jumping off a rooftop and into a dumpster.
  • Undying Loyalty: Adrian to Lugo.
    Adrian: I'd do anything for Daniel Lugo. He was a bighearted motherfucker who only had my best interests in mind.
  • Unflinching Walk: When they blow up Victor's car, thinking they killed him this time (still doesn't work). However, Paul slightly flinches and Daniel looks at him when it happens.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Mostly averted. The movie is based on a series of Miami New Times articles. What's surprising is just how much stuff portrayed in the film actually did happen (Paul barbecuing the severed hands is accompanied by the onscreen graphic "this is still a true story").
    • The biggest departure from the true story is that Paul Doyle is not a real person, but rather a composite of multiple individuals who assisted Lugo and Doorbal in their crimes. The mug shot of the "real" Paul Doyle in the closing credits is a picture of an actor!
    • The true kicker is the ending omitted the twist of Victor Kershaw - who is a somewhat fictional version of the real-life victim Mark Schiller. Schiller fled to his family in Colombia after he left the hospital to escape further attempts to kill him, but returned to Florida to assist in the investigation and trial of the Sun Gym gang. After the trial ended, federal authorities immediately arrested Schiller for Medicare fraud; the feds had purposely waited nearly three years until the Florida prosecutors had no more use for Schiller. Had Schiller remained in Colombia instead, he might have avoided the federal charges. Additionally, some of the testimony against Schiller was from a Sun Gym gang member sentenced to 15 years for his role in the kidnapping of Schiller.
  • Villain Protagonist: Daniel. The interesting thing is the survivors and family accused the filmmakers of portraying Lugo and his co-horts as "antiheroes who just made a few mistakes," which is about as far as the trailers got. In reality the film doesn't make them out to be good people in the least, and instead shows that they are stupid, selfish people who torture and kill others for their money (Paul is an exception, who is a devout Christian dragged into this scheme, also being a combination of two other characters).
  • Villainous Breakdown: Daniel starts to lose it hard when they kill their second target by accident.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The film ends with the credits showing the main cast with a picture of the real person they were portraying. Two of the kidnappers were sentenced to death while the third served 15 years in prison. The gym owner who forged the transaction papers for them got 15 years as well and died in prison, while the survivors' names were changed.
  • Where da White Women At?: Adrian marries Robin, a fat white nurse, who eventually divorced him.
  • Woman Scorned: Adiran's wife divorces him so she can testify against him, which she uses to reveal for the record he has a small penis and finger-banged his lawyer ("Whore.").
  • You Are Fat: A waitress who works at Kershaw's sandwich deli took fat shaming from her boss on a daily basis. When she forgot to put baloney inside a customer's sandwich, Kershaw mocks that she must have ate the baloney herself.

"And that's the American Dream."