Max Payne

Max Payne

**

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

As anyone who knows their cinematic stuff will tell you, movies based on computer games generally aren't very good. While the gaming industry is improving all the time and many contemporary games play like films, the genre of console adaptations has yet to impress (though Tomb Raider earned a pass for Angelina Jolie's tightly-clad outfit). Following in the pixelated-footsteps of Resident Evil, Doom and Hitman, would Max Payne be the one to break the mould? Predictably, it's not.

Ever since his wife and infant child were murdered by three junkies, former NYPD homicide detective Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) has been obsessed with catching the killer. Now working on 'cold case' files that usually lead nowhere, Max meets a young Russian girl (Olga Kurylenko) who dies making him the chief suspect to her assassin sister Mona Sax (Mila Kunis) and an Internal Affairs cop (Ludacris). With the help of his ex-partner (Donal Logue) and former mentor BB (Beau Bridges), Max stumbles onto a plot involving corporate man Jason Colvin (Chris O'Donnell), an insane ex-soldier Jack Lupino (Amaoury Nolasco) and a drug called Valkyr that has makes its users see strange winged creatures.

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Though shot with a flair that suggests director John Moore (The Omen remake) has an eye for a stylish shot, Max Payne suffers from identity crisis, as it isn't sure what sort of film it wants to be. While the first half provides a film noir vibe with much less action that you would imagine, the second half literally explodes into action as guns blaze, bodies splatter and heroes jump in slow motion while firing their weapons. In terms of the plot, its potential is largely wasted with a rusty set of clich├ęs and 'twists' that really aren't difficult to figure out. If you don't guess who the villain is, please return your cinema pass immediately.

However, though I wouldn't put Max Payne and the word originality together, the Norse mythology angle is fairly interesting. Whenever we glimpse through the eyes of the drug-users the winged-creatures and burning skies (particularly Payne's 'trip') the movie is more entertaining. Indeed, the very idea that this 'other world' the users see might exist but remains unseen to normal humans is an intriguing one and should have received more focus. Note for the inevitable sequel: more dragony creatures, sub-world paradox, less John Woo imitation.

One area where the movie does succeed though is with its striking visuals. Clearly inspired by Sin City and possibly Frank Miller's other graphic novel adaptation 300, Moore uses desaturated colours and a dark shadowy feel to evoke the desired noir feel. Aside from the perma-snow and Wahlberg's nearly all-black wardrobe, the most impressive aesthetic treat is the valkyries themselves which have an oddly ominous beauty. Just to clarify, I am referring to the winged-creatures flying about and not the upcoming Tom Cruise Nazi movie.

In the titular role, Mark Wahlberg might fail to make us emote for him with minimalistic dialogue but he saunters through the other sequences without even hinting at breaking a sweat. While new Bond girl Olga Kurylenko has eyes that outshine the screen and Ludacris is actually quite convincing, Mila Kunis is out-performed by her looks, Beau Bridges doesn't do the required misdirection act and Chris O'Donnell brings you out of the picture as you remember that he exists as an actor. As for Amaury Nolasco, I just kept wondering why Sucre from Prison Break was crouching on top of buildings with weird tattoos.

Overall, though it isn't the first video game adaptation to disappoint, it's also not the first to delight. While I can see fans of Mark Wahlberg or action enthusiasts having a ball (if you are both then it's bingo time), Max Payne won't inspire the average viewer and hasn't done anything to change minds about the poor calibre of console games brought to the big screen. Let's just hope those adapting Pac-Man (seriously) do a better job...

Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2008
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Pulpy noir movies begets videogame begets pulpy noir movie.
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Director: John Moore

Writer: Beau Thorne, Sam Lake

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Donal Logue, Chris O'Donnell, Olga Kurlyenko, Amaury Olasco

Year: 2008

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Sin City