When Art Imitates Pain

When life, art and pain intersect, the results are difficult to accept.

Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg star in Pain & Gain, the insensitive film adaption of the Sun Gym story. Publicity Photo. Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg star in Pain & Gain, the insensitive film adaption of the Sun Gym story. Publicity Photo.

Let’s say it’s 2028, and you’ve decided to watch the new film Before The Finish. The plot is based on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three and injured hundreds. Despite such a heavy topic, the film features plenty of comic relief, like the person setting the bombs forgetting to replace the detonator’s batteries. Sure, there’s gruesome death in Before The Finish, but it plays out like a comedy.

With the Boston Marathon attack only days old, the scenario sounds ridiculous. How could someone ever create a lighthearted view of such a tragedy, and why would anyone want to see it presented in that way? That’s exactly what some are wondering about Pain & Gain, the new film starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Pain & Gain, which debuts this Friday, is based on the real-life tale of three bodybuilders turned murderers. Their story was captured in 1999 in a series of articles in the The Miami New Times. In the early 1990s, dedicated members of the Sun Gym—Daniel Lugo, Noel Doorbal and Jorge Delgado—hatched a get-rich-quick scheme that quickly escalated from extortion to kidnapping to torture to murder. For their crimes, Lugo and Doorbal were sentenced to death and currently sit on death row. Delgado turned state’s witness and is serving out his jail sentence.

Zsuzsanna Griga will not be seeing Pain & Gain. Her brother was beaten to death by the Sun Gym Gang. The trio killed his girlfriend by injecting her with horse tranquilizer. The bodybuilders then cut both of them up and dumped their bodies. Griga told The Associated Press that she, and others impacted by the Sun Gym Gang’s crimes, was disgusted to find out that Pain & Gain puts a comedic spin on the events. “It’s horrible what happened to them,” said Griga. “I don’t want the American public to be sympathetic to the killers.”

Griga’s stance on Pain & Gain begs the question: Should there be ethical standards for art? Could Before The Finish—starring Will Ferrell as a lovable, shirtless terrorist—come out next year? Is it even okay for a film to depict horrific, true life acts with a side of hilarious hijinks? I want to say that art can be whatever the artist wants it to be. But then I ask myself, what if it was my daughter who was dismembered? What if it was my brother who was killed in the bombing? I don’t know the answers, but maybe the fact that I’m asking so many questions is the only goal art ever needs to accomplish.

Dos and Don’ts of Downtown ACAC:

Do: Run around the tiny indoor track if you’re cool with people watching you and wondering why you just don’t run outside.

Don’t: Be that guy who spreads his crap all over the lounge area of the men’s locker room. It’s a common space, not your bedroom. This concludes “Passive Aggressiveness With Chris O’Shea.” Next week: Damn Whole Foods, Just Donate My Bag Refund Yourself.

Do: Say hello to Joe, one of the nicest staffers there on weekday mornings.

Don’t: Use the middle treadmills equipped with TVs. The AC and a fan blasts those machines, and that means hard nipples. No one likes the Nipple Man.