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Pain and Gain by Steve Jablonsky

Pain and Gain

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Pain and Gain (Soundtrack) by Steve Jablonsky
Pain and Gain (Soundtrack) by Steve Jablonsky










Pain and Gain (Soundtrack) by Steve Jablonsky

Pain and Gain
Composed by Steve Jablonsky
Varese Sarabande Records (2013)

Rating: 4/10

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“Unfortunately, PAIN & GAIN is another one to add to the rapidly growing pile of misses.”

Not Much to Gain Here
Review by Edmund Meinerts


Having spent most of his career creating big-budget explosion clotheslines, director Michael Bay’s latest is a surprising downscale in scope and budget: PAIN & GAIN, a crime film based on the exploits of a group of real-life bodybuilders-turned-organized-criminals. The film (and in particular its stab at dark comedy) has received mixed reviews, which by Bay’s standards is like being nominated for half a dozen Oscars, and along for the ride for the fifth BAY film in a row is STEVE JABLONSKY, whose disappointingly hit-and-miss career path is one of the most frustrating phenomena in recent film music. Unfortunately, PAIN & GAIN is another one to add to the rapidly growing pile of misses.

JABLONSKY’s previous scores for the director, led by the power-anthem-laden TRANSFORMERS trilogy, have generally been extremely derivative of his mentor HANS ZIMMER, but still memorable and thematic enough to stand as viable guilty pleasures (the first in particular). PAIN & GAIN takes a very different route, however, scrapping the orchestra almost entirely in favor of a modern, all-synthetic soundscape a la CLIFF MARTINEZ. Like MARTINEZ’ scores, it is no doubt sufficient as a mood-setter in the context of the film but on the excessively generous 65-minute album, most of it is simply dull.

From time to time, a moment of promise does rear its head to throw the listener a bone, but even at best, this music never rises above pleasantly anonymous. An echoing electric guitar riff in the opening “I’m Big” (1) and reprised in “I Believe in Fitness” (18) is the closest the score gets to a theme, and the pair of plucky, upbeat cues that follow are reminiscent of the lighter moments in the TRANSFORMERS scores (which really means they sound like THOMAS NEWMAN, of course, though not quite as obvious this time around). Later on, “Run Him Over” (11) introduces some almost MASS EFFECT-like ethereal synth and vocal work and is generally one of the few moments in this score where the music almost seems like it has something to say, dramatically-speaking. “Du Bois” (22) is another moment of pleasant tonality, with low piano thuds once again familiar from the TRANSFORMERS scores and a rare cameo from acoustic instruments in the form of a string section (then again, perhaps they’re just synths as well). The closing cue, “Doyle,” (26), introduces a hypnotic, three-note rising synth figure but, once again, stops just short of being truly memorable. It feels like the groundwork for a solid thematic cue, but with the theme itself having somehow gone missing.

On the other side of the coin, the score also has moments (mercifully few) of utter obnoxiousness. The best thing to be said about the monotonous beat in “I Got Saved” (5) is that it only lasts a minute, and the insistent repetition of a single low note at the end of the otherwise purely droning “Cologne” (8) is an unwelcome reminder of how irritating the same moronic tactic was in BATTLESHIP the year previous. For the most part, though, PAIN & GAIN avoids being truly unpleasant and makes for a not-objectionable background listening experience. The electronic textures are reasonably well-done and occasionally interesting (e.g. the JOHN CARPENTER synth pulse and detuned piano in “CIA” (23)). But the problem with it is that it is so emotionally bland, so unwilling to be memorable or have an impact and so entirely devoid of narrative flow that it completely fails to hold your attention.

JABLONSKY has composed four scores in the last two years so far, and of those this is the second-best, “beaten” only by the decent but out-of-place GANGSTER SQUAD and coming in ahead of the headache-inducing BATTLESHIP and utterly irredeemable GEARS OF WAR: JUDGMENT (the worst video game score I have ever heard). In 2004, JABLONSKY composed the score for Japanese animated film STEAMBOY, music which was memorable, enjoyable, energetic, vivid and had a distinct personality and style of its own that promised great things for an up-and-coming composer. A decade later and the nicest thing to be said about his second-best of four recent scores is that it’s boring rather than completely awful. If there’s a better example of squandered talent anywhere, I’d love to know what it is.


Rating: 4/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 I'm Big 2:21  ***
2 Sun Gym 2:02  ***
3 Definitely Guys 1:58  ***
4 I'm a Doer 2:27  **
5 I Got Saved 1:13  *
6 Wrong Car 1:16  ***
7 Taser 1:36  **
8 Cologne 2:18  *
9 I'm Gonna Tell Jesus 3:57  **
10 Buckle Up 2:03  ***
11 Run Him Over 3:28  ***
12 Catching Bad Guys 1:32  **
13 I Work Hard 3:46  **
14 Get a Pump 1:39  *
15 Sometimes Your Gotta Run 1:25  **
16 Difficult Victim 0:59  **
17 14 Minutes 2:49  ***
18 I Believe in Fitness 2:25  ***
19 Supermen 3:19  **
20 So Buff 2:57  ***
21 Sacred Trust 3:21  **
22 Du Bois 3:26  ***
23 CIA 1:44  ***
24 My Shit Stopped Workin' 3:53  ***
25 Toe 2:00  **
26 Doyle 5:32  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 66 minutes  


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