A pair of bodybuilders who hang out at a Miami gym hatch a get-rich-quick scheme that, through a series of blunders, ends in the murder of two people. There are ninja costumes, foiled kidnapping attempts and a private eye, all of which make the story of the Sun Gym gang prime for Hollywood. The film Pain & Gain, an action comedy directed by Michael Bay and starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson comes out on April 26, and those close to the case it’s based on aren’t pleased with the movie’s humorous interpretation of a series of brutal, tragic events.
In 1994, Sun Gym manager Daniel Lugo, played in the film by Mark Wahlberg, and steroid abusing bodybuilder Noel Doorbal, portrayed by Anthony Mackie, decided to kidnap and extort money from Marc Schiller, a wealthy accountant. Schiller had previously employed Jorge Delgado who also worked out at Sun Gym. Delgado at first refused to participate, but after Lugo convinced him that Schiller had cheated him out of money, revealed vital details about Schiller’s home and life. Though Delgado is not in the movie, a fictional member of the kidnap crew, Paul Doyle, is played by The Rock.
Lugo and his associates made several botched attempts to kidnap Schiller, once dressing up as ninjas. When they finally succeeded in kidnapping Schiller, they brought him to a warehouse Delgado had rented, where they beat him, threatened his wife and kids and shocked him with a stun gun in an effort to get him to sign over his assets. Schiller was held captive by the crew for four weeks, during which time he was waterboarded and deprived of sleep. He signed over his house and most of his assets. When the crew began to worry that Schiller would tell, they decided to kill him and make it look like a drunk driving accident. They forced Schiller to drink, then crashed his car into a pole. They then put the highly intoxicated man into the front seat, soaked the vehicle in gasoline, and set it on fire. Schiller managed to escape and was run over by the crew twice.
In the film, Schiller’s character is name Victor Kershaw and is played by Tony Shalhoub, Schiller, who miraculously survived his ordeal, is unhappy with his portrayal. In the movie, Kershaw is a high-rolling criminal who smokes cigars and flaunts him money by surrounding himself with beautiful women in bikinis. Schiller told the Associated Press that this is inaccurate: “It’s not who I am. “It’s supposed to represent me but it doesn’t.”
After Schiller, the gang went after Frank Griga, introduced to them by Doorbal’s stripper girlfriend. The Hungarian immigrant had made money by running a phone sex operation, and the Sun Gym gang wanted to kidnap him and extort him for the cash like they did with Schiller. They invited him and his girlfriend Krisztina Furton to dinner, which escalated into mayhem. Griga was beaten to death and Furton killed with an overdose of animal tranquilizer. Lugo and Doorbal bought tools, which they used to dismember their victims in a warehouse. They then tried to burn their heads, hands and feet.
The members of the Sun Gym crew were caught, tried and convicted of a multitude of crimes including kidnapping, extortion and murder. Delgado was cut a deal for testifying for the state and was sentenced to 5 and 15 years for his role.
Griga’s sister Zsuzsanna Griga told The Miami Herald from Hungary that she’s upset about the film, which sympathizes withe Lugo and Doorbal. ”It’s horrible what happened to them. I don’t want the American public to be sympathetic to the killers.”
Hollywood has a history of making comedies of tragic true-life murders. The 2011 film 30 Minutes or Less, follows Nick, a hapless pizza delivery boy played by The Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg as he’s assaulted by a pair of goons who equip him with an explosive vest that he can’t remove. Nick has ten hours to rob a bank and provide his assailants, played by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, with the money. Of course, Nick escapes alive and with the money. The real-life story that inspired the movie doesn’t end as well. In 2003, pizza delivery driver Brian Douglas Wells entered a bank with an explosive collar around his neck. He was apprehended and brought to the parking lot, the bomb exploded in front of police and spectators, killing Wells.