Stories based on true events are often tough to swallow. Hollywood loves to truss up a story, make it into something it never was, make things funny when they weren’t. While I may not know the original story that this was based on, I did read the news report posted online and was unsurprised to read that the people who had been kidnapped in the actual story were disgusted with the changes made. I can’t imagine anyone being happy with a Hollywood comedy about a tragic event in their lives, but it is unsurprising.
The story follows an anti-hero named Lugo played by Mark Walberg. Lugo is a personal trainer, working hard, wanting more from life, like many of us, no doubt. After attending a self-help seminar, he realises he can’t continue doing what he’s doing. Instead he sees one of his clients, Victor, has more than he deserves. Lugo convinces two friends to help him with a ‘simple’ kidnapping scheme that will make them rich. As expected, things go off the rails from the beginning. The kidnapping is never executed well and it takes three tries before they finally acquire the target in any capacity.
The acting was superb, Dwayne Johnson, the Rock, may seem like a meat-head, but he stole practically every scene he was in. Guest appearances from Rebel Wilson and Ken Jeong were perfect. I feel like Mark Walberg has been playing the same two characters in every movie I’ve seen him in: the tortured, tough guy or the funny, buff guy. While I have been impressed with his work, this one felt very forced.
The story ends as you might expect, but I found myself not feeling sympathetic for the tough guys, who were the main focus of the story, but the resiliency from the hateable victim Victor. Tony Shaloub is absolutely detestable as Victor. You hate him the moment you meet him, but truthfully, you should feel sorry for him. This allusion may be poorly placed, but the movie reminded me of Cogan’s Way, the recent Brad Pitt movie Killing Them Softly. The basis for that movie was about the American Way, getting what you want and working hard for it.
This movie cuts from the same cloth. Lugo wants the American life, the one that is feasible in this country, but few others. If you work hard, if you stay the course, you will be rewarded. What Lugo forgets is that he isn’t working hard, he’s stealing. Victor wins because he is dogged in his efforts, as he was on his way to success. The crux of the story is if you cut corners, you won’t get to the finish line. While we may not like it, despicable people are successful because they don’t give up, they don’t let someone beat them. Victor was literally run over by a car, narrowly escaped being caught several times and managed to have his story taken seriously by one person, and that is all it takes.
Many reviewers felt this movie was vapid, but I found the moral hitting home. I want to succeed, as we all do, and more like Victor than Lugo, I’m not cutting corners, putting in the time to be see the fruits of my labour. If nothing else, the movie emboldened my focus, confirming that hard work does pay off. Go forth and take that dream, no one will give it to you.