Director: John Moore
Release Date: 14th November 2008. UK
Cast: Mark Walhberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Christopher ‘Ludacris’ Bridges.
There is film noir then there is Max Payne, John Moore’s latest offering which is so dark and grey, it appears the colour printer was having troubles during production, more a film of negative balance occasionally dipped into the fountain of colour.
Rockstar games conflicted revamp, with all the trimmings in 20th Century Fox’s videogames New York cop Max Payne, gets a Hollywoode adaptation. With Hollywood heavy, weight Mark Walhberg in the titular role of our ‘antihero’ Max Payne, proves to be another questionable role choice for our Marky Mark, whose performance in The Departed received plaudits from across the board. The film opens with the action witnessed in the trailers. It works explosively on screen as we, see Payne body deep underwater somewhat unconscious before exploding into life and attempting to swim to the surface. Prior to this we hear Payne informing us through voiceover “I don’t believe in heaven, I believe in pain, I believe in fear, I believe in death”. Chilling words from our protagonist, laying the road work for a thrilling, dark cop action adventure, only to disappoint.
We soon meet Max, a solemn, broody, unsociable figure of a man. A depleted, washed up NYPD cop now working in the Cold Case Unit of the local precinct. We then learn that his wife and baby boy, were murdered some three years ago, with the case going unsolved. Furthermore, Payne since has been on an off-duty quest to the last living killer. Staying to true to form of the video game plot, this is as far as the movie goes, bar the mention of Valkyr. Of which, the rest of the plot revolves around this dangerous hallucinating blue drug, a addictive drug taken by US soldiers to anguish fear in them in their fight in Iraq. (Another Hollywood film with a mention to America’s war on terror. Making me think, hold up I thought this was Max Payne, not another war on terror puppet film, two conflicting film ideas??) The rest of the plot, consists of Marky Mark meeting Natasha (Kurylenko), at a party and her sister, one notorious Mona Sax (Kunis) appearing at the party and the two of them engage in some sort of conflict, which is not clear or developed greatly. One thing leads to another, and Payne ends teaming up with Mona Sax as they both seek revenge. It appears the same killers have done with Natasha as had with Payne’s family. Their trail leads them to a mysterious bald man (Sergeant Lupino we later find out). There are some more altercations and other twist and turns as the film drags on.
The dark, dank, sets and colour resonate the mysterious and baleful feel of the film under John Moore, almost appearing to copy the dark colour resolution used by the superb Sin City. The opening third of the film plays well in respects to the bigger picture, action sequences, and script appears to work well. I took a personal pleasure in the action sequence where Payne is pursued by AERIS security and Central dispatch, which plays for cinematography, but not much else. Moore fails to inject the excitement and spark that the videogame contained (as it became a success through major gaming platforms). Walhberg despite his normal impressive character development (bar his 2008 stinkers) even fails to ignite the lead Payne. However, he does prove to be a wise choice, considering other possible options, but it is not hard to play a straight-laced morose, permanently scowling figure. The script and plot also lead for the downfall of the film, with little care taken for either, and modest input of the plot from the main game, is frank to many lovers of the videogame platform. The figure the Max Payne embodies though is of a more humdrum cast. Payne is scorned by his superiors, abandoned by his peers, (even the friendly BB turns against him) and left to more of less fend for himself in a world he tries to appears to truly understand but like everyone else struggles to come to grips with. Max Payne will work well with the videogames adolescent fans target audience, but will encounter difficulties swaying the older players of the game franchise. Furthermore, thanks to the gory less 15 age rating
Max Payne ultimately packs little punches, far more scarier are the scowls of Walhberg’s Payne.
Much happens in Max Payne, some of it incomprehensible, a lot of it at times pointlessly preposterous, and at times less interesting then watching cress cow in a bowl of dirt. Max Payne offers better than other video-game to film adaptations in all.