“I believe in fitness.” — Daniel Lugo, “Pain & Gain”
“I’ve been into fitness for a while.” — Mark Wahlberg, “The Marky Mark Workout”
Some visual food for thought for anyone working on a thinkpiece about Mark Wahlberg’s star persona and his role in Michael Bay’s “Pain & Gain.” The clip I’m about to show you recontextualizes the entire movie. It’s making me want to rewatch “Pain & Gain,” which is something I never thought I’d say, at least for a long time.
In the film, Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a Miami-based personal trainer turned con artist, blackmailer, kidnapper, and all-around amoral thug. Lugo operates according to his own, truly warped code. Practically the only thing Lugo believes in is fitness. “Pain & Gain” is largely based on an unbelievable true story; Lugo is a real guy, and his actions in the movies are largely drawn from real life. But the personal philosophy he espouses about fitness bears a distinct similarity with one spoken twenty years ago by a famous public figure, one who tried to parlay his budding celebrity into an ill-advised workout video.
That public figure was Mark Wahlberg.
In 1993, riding high on the popularity of his hip hop group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch and his willingness to appear in public in his underwear, Wahlberg launched another career as a fitness guru, with a videotape entitled “The Marky Mark Workout.” Here is a four minute highlight reel.
Viewed in 2013, the video looks like an audition for “Pain & Gain” (and also for the sad, desperate ’80s portions of “Boogie Nights”). Even with his thick Boston accent and hip hop inflections, Wahlberg already sounds like Lugo. Almost everything he says could work as dialogue for the anti-hero of “Pain & Gain.” Like, for example:
“I know you have to learn in order to really key in on the strong points which is form, focus, & determination.”
“The important thing to remember is you’re starting where you’re at. But there’s no stopping you after that.”
“The main thing to remember is start where you can start. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. Everybody has their own game.”
“Everybody’s beautiful, man. Go out and get yours.”
“There’s realistic goals out there, but you gotta work hard to accomplish them.”
If you enjoyed “Pain & Gain,” and in particular if you thought Wahlberg brought an intense sort of authenticity to the role of Daniel Lugo, this might be why. Even back in 1993, he was feeling the fitness vibrations. POW!