- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ontinuing in the Hollywood tradition of making bad movies based on good video games, "Max Payne” suffers from being worse than it probably deserves to be. It’s not like director John Moore didn’t have access to examples of what not to do when adapting a beloved video game for the big screen, and yet the film still lacks certain basic elements that even a dud like “Hitman” got right. After all, you don’t make a movie called “Max Payne” that’s almost completely void of action for the first hour, and though Moore’s movie is more crime noir than shoot-‘em-up, it would have been better off the other way around.
Sticking as close to the story of the original game as possible, Mark Wahlberg stars as Max Payne, a New York homicide detective who has transferred to the lonely and unexciting Cold Case unit following the murder of his wife and child. It’s been three years since the case has gone unsolved, but that hasn’t stopped Max from continuing his search. When his former partner (Donal Logue) is killed while investigating a new lead, Max teams up with Russian mob boss Mona Sax (Mila Kunis) to find the connection between his wife's death, the Valkyrie tattoos found on all the junkies in town, and the blue liquid drug that makes those using it think they’re being stalked by winged angels of death.
To say any more would be to give too much away, but for those that aren’t familiar with the game, let’s just say that the big twist isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. With that said, however, both Moore and first-time writer Beau Thomas should be commended for how faithful they’ve remained to the source material. It’s hard to adapt anything word for word, but with the exception of some minor plot details and a few characters that play different roles in the story, "Max Payne" comes pretty darn close. The game’s neo-noir visual style is also interpreted beautifully on film, and though it probably would have looked even better had Moore just gone full-out “Sin City” and shot the entire thing in black and white, his decision to dress everyone in dark clothes and then contrast that with an incredibly bright flurry of snow works just as well. It’s a damn shame, then, that the movie fumbles far simpler tasks.
Save for Mark Wahlberg in the lead role (who has spun a respectable career out of playing badassess just like Max Payne), there’s not a single decent performance to be found. Mila Kunis pops in and out of the movie so randomly that most of her scenes were likely left on the cutting room floor; Amaury Nolasco’s stock villain is only there to look mean and sweat profusely; and Chris Bridges’ attempt at playing a by-the-book IAD agent is, dare I say, ludicrous. Even Olga Kurylenko’s limited appearance as Mona’s drug-addicted sister raises its share of questions – the most curious of which is why she's slinking around in the same red dress she wore in "Hitman." There are some pretty good actors among the cast (like Donal Logue, Jamie Hector, and even Chris O’Donnell), but none of them are given more than a few minutes to develop their characters, and in the end, you’re left to wonder why they didn’t just get someone else to play such throwaway roles instead.
My biggest complaint, however, is that the movie is disappointingly light on action. Sure, Moore eventually delivers the goods in the final act, but each action sequence begins so soon after the last one has ended that they sort of just blend together. It also doesn’t help that some people might be bored by the time any of this even happens, or that for a game that pioneered the implementation of bullet time, it’s only used once throughout the entire movie. It’s great that Moore has chosen to focus so much on the story’s supernatural angle (even if it isn’t explained in very much detail), but it doesn’t mean a thing if the audience isn’t paying attention. “Max Payne” could have joined the company of films like “Sin City” and “Shoot ‘Em Up,” but in the end, it’s nothing more than yet another failed video game adaptation that’s had so many layers of shine applied to its coat that it hurts just to look at it.
Single-Disc Unrated Blu-Ray Review:
“Max Payne” wasn’t as big of a box office hit as the studio (or director John Moore, for that matter) was probably hoping for, but Fox has still put together a decent collection of special features for the film’s Blu-ray release. Along with an unrated cut that runs about three minutes longer, the single-disc effort also includes an informative but forgettable audio commentary by Moore, production designer Daniel Dorrance, and visual effects supervisor Everett Burrell, a two-part documentary (“Pictures”) that is just as much about the people making the film as the film itself, and an animated graphic novel detailing the year leading up to Michelle Payne’s murder. Rounding out the set is a BonusView picture-in-picture video track containing additional behind-the-scenes footage, but unfortunately, the screen is so damn small that it’s virtually impossible to see what’s going on. Way to go, Fox.