Hippo Manchester
December 8, 2005

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Film: No Pain, No Gain (NR)  F
by Amy Diaz

Bodybuilder Mike Zurillo (Gus Malliarodakias) wants to prove that muscles don’t need to come from steroids in No Pain, No Gain, a movie that really makes you appreciate the quality of even the lousiest of mainstream Hollywood movies.

Most independently made movies have this effect on me. Even the most one-dimensional, obvious, hackneyed retread of a Hollywood movie benefits from those little technical touches — a good audio recording, professional set design, the casting of actors who have some passing familiarity with what acting entails. A good sound guy and some decent photography can make all the difference in the world. The moral of the independent movie story is that if you aren’t going to have a good story or at least some clever dialogue (Clerks), wait to make your movie until it can star Will Ferrell and Cameron Diaz and nobody expects it to be any good.

No Pain, No Gain, for example, should have waited for some muscley meathead (Matt LeBlanc? Arnold Schwarzenegger?) to be in desperate need of a career boost. Any actor with a bigger neck than forehead could have played Mike, a former Mr. Ohio who is now just a washed-up gym rat. Looking to improve his fortunes, Mike wants to develop a natural means of increasing muscle mass without drugs. Of course, no one actually believes that is possible, especially current bodybuilding superstar Jake Steel (Dennis Newman). All horse testosterone and bad dye-job, Jake takes an instant disliking to Mike because, er, he has to for the story to have conflict. Jake’s boss Crystal Rivers (Kim Travis), who seems permanently stuck on the “angry hysteria” setting, doesn’t want Mike and his natural methods to succeed — she needs a well-pumped Jake to sell protein formulas to bodybuilding wannabes.

No Pain, No Gain features plenty of power-ballad-enhanced training montages and some inspirational jabbering and a whole lot of very amateurish movie making. It appeared in southern New Hampshire as part of a one-day, one-screening engagement, which let’s hope is the only engagement. Sure, it costs some pain to make gains but it shouldn’t hurt this much to watch a movie.