PAIN & GAIN TRAILER: Marketing Fun in the Sun

Occasionally, I remember to celebrate– and not merely anatomize–trailers in this space, in imitation of my fan-boy/girl peers on other trailer-focused websites and blogs. As I watched and rewatched the official trailer for director (rather than producer only) Michael Bay’s first modestly-budgeted (35M) and non-Transformers‘ film since 2005’s Di Caprio dud, The Island, I thought to attend to the pleasures of the genre above all other analytical and assessment considerations.

So, here’s my paean to an enticing trailer for what is, in preview at least, a quality Hollywood entertainment with all the most important kinds of appeals to present, high-spot and market.

The trailer opens with Michael Bay’s website url, to my mind the single gratuitous or indulgent gesture, insofar as it claims premium placement without contributing anything special. But, the bold-faced Mr. Bay has, presumably, an ego to be massaged, and given his stature, name recognition and the production quality guaranteed by his reputation, front-ending the card (rather than its typical position after the title) can be excused.

With Bay, an audience expects to get spectacle and cinematic artistry and the visual evidence on display in the trailer justifies that anticipation. The editor has, it appears, lots of quality footage to choose from and work with. Whether the establishing shots of Miami (iconic images of sea and sun, the Fontainebleau Hotel and bikini-clad vixens, even a neon sign spelling it out) the slow-mo, panning and tracking shots, the quick-cut action sequences or the colors, composition and rhythm of the piece, the trailer promises South Beach glitz, muscled stars and swat teams, azure seas and sunburned skin in gorgeous saturated exposures.

With it’s dead pan opening V.O., by Mark Wahlberg: “My name is Tony Lugo and I believe in fitness,” (though whether mental, physical or moral is left deliciously unspecified) we discover that the film, based on a true story (almost always an advantage in the misadventure genre) has humor and not just eye-candy. Dwayne Johnson‘s character, Paul, a tatted ex-con whose ferocious appearance is belied by a choir-boy articulation and anxious sweetness of manner, plays against type and expectation, at least as presented in the key-art, where the film is positioned with swagger and macho-posturing.

Likewise, “DL” (Anthony Mackie) is yet another hapless, simple-minded, steroid-abusing fitness industry peon seduced into a criminally bad scheme by charismatic ring-leader, Wahlberg, an ambitious, credulous all-American dreamer. And, I should mention Rebel Wilson playing sexual predator in nurses (or medical assistant’s) clothing, working for a clinic that treats patients for the most personal of steroid-abuse problems.

Indeed, the film has real depth of talent. Besides those I’ve mentioned, there’s Tony Shalhoub as sleazy, dishonest businessman Victor, a training client who the three muscle-heads kidnap and rob. The always appealing Ed Harris plays professional and no-doubt, ruthless, fixer, ED, hired to reclaim Victor’s property and punish the audacious and greedy trio. And there’s Ken Jeong as a business-self-help guro and entrepreneurial motivation speaker whose happy fictions plant the corrupt seed that grows in Wahlberg’s febrile brain.

(Ok, ladies, this is clearly and self-consciously a boy’s buddy film. Yes, Bar Paly also appears, but apart from Rebel’s work in the trailer and the obligatory bikini-clad set decoration, the trailers is all about bros if not pros.)

So, the film has provenance, spectacle, stars, humor, story (i.e. a crazy but true, ill-starred caper that backfires spectacularly). It also appears to have gravitas and a message, indicated by the music choices of the trailer producers and the deadly violence that erupts during payback. It’s 1995 and the long, bull-market and rising economy of the 90’s is in full swing. South Beach is a boom town awash in money, drugs, beauty, sex, opportunity and temptation. It’s humid swamp brimming with greed and hope, innocence and experience, combined in unequal measure to produce an intoxicating, possibly lethal elixir.

This film, with its period authenticity and nostalgia–perhaps, even, sympathy for it’s clueless protagonists (viz: “I’ve seen a lot of movies Paul, I know what I’m doing” says Tony to Paul’s pertinent questions)– also appears to be a message movie, with lesson to be gleaned from the difficult experience of others. Is it a parable about easy money and hard consequences? A cautionary tale about steroid abuse? A send up of Floridian dreamers and schemers?

Probably. But it also looks like great fun in a gorgeous package. I hadn’t thought I’d enjoy the movie prior to watching the trailer. It’s on my “to see” list as of today. Good work, trailer makers and marketers.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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