Max Payne Movie Review (1 Star)
Movie Review by Michael Phillips
Max Payne Starring Mark Wahlberg
"Max Payne" offers maximum pain along with minimum invention, and the only thing that keeps it out of the bottom of the Dumpster -- it's more of a top-of-the-Dumpster movie -- is the presence of Mark Wahlberg, who really ought to line himself up a good project soon, to mitigate the grief inflicted by "The Happening" and now this joyless, joystickless adaptation of the 2001 video game.
I admit it: If an action film strains to impress an audience, over and over, with slow-motion first-person kill shots, I am not likely to be impressed. But even the target demographic for "Max Payne," the ones who spent untold hours working their way through the game, may well resist director John Moore's film.
It's sluggish as well as hard on the eyes (interiors and exteriors share the same hot, flat, blue-gray schmutzy lighting -- stylized in the least imaginative ways).
"I don't believe in heaven," Wahlberg says in voice-over in the opening seconds, audibly scowling the scowl he wears throughout. "I believe in pain." Let the games begin!
The plot is essentially a series of "rooms" to be entered so that Payne can lock, load, kill and relock and reload and kill again, and then go back to searching for the scumbag who murdered his wife and daughter. The back story relates to a military experiment gone wrong (first time in the history of cinema!) involving a bright-blue liquid drug, Valkyrie, which gives the user/instant addict the sensation of invincibility and the fierce fighting spirit of the meanest Norse mythological gods around.
The movie "Max Payne" climaxes with Mark Wahlberg taking the drug in order to clean up the mess and take out the trash, and the message is pretty simple: Cool drug, no? Honestly, you find yourself rooting against Payne's survival, even with a good actor in the hollow role. There's nothing inside the film's sour, slovenly spirit of vengeance. It's as not-there as the fake digital snow falling all over Manhattan.
Initially, "Max Payne" was rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. Director Moore, whose film may be more dull than offensive but is offensive nonetheless, won the appeal, and presto: PG-13, and now 8-year-olds can check it out, or else wait for the "gamer dedicated cut" (hard R, most likely) due in a few months on DVD.
"I'm surprised we eventually did get away with what we did get away with," Moore told gamedaily.com. Meantime, "Rachel Getting Married" snags an R for a handful of harsh words. The clowns at the MPAA continue to put the bull in "double standard."
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language).
Running time: 1:40.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg (Max Payne); Mila Kunis (Mona Sax); Olga Kurylenko (Natasha); Chris "Ludacris" Bridges (Jim Bravura); Beau Bridges (B.B.).
Directed by John Moore; written by Beau Thorne, based on the video game; photographed by Jonathan Sela; edited by Dan Zimmerman; music by Marco Beltrami; production design by Daniel Dorrance; produced by Moore, Julie Yorn and Scott Faye. A 20th Century Fox release.
About the Movie "Max Payne"
Based on the legendary, hard-hitting interactive video game, the movie Max Payne tells the story of a maverick cop determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his family and partner. Hell-bent on revenge, his obsessive investigation takes him on a nightmare journey into a dark underworld. As the mystery deepens, Max (Mark Wahlberg) is forced to battle enemies beyond the natural world and face an unthinkable betrayal.
Max Payne is a maverick cop - a mythic anti-hero - determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murders of his family and partner. Hell-bent on revenge, his obsessive investigation takes him on a nightmare journey into a dark underworld. As the mystery deepens, Max is forced to battle enemies beyond the natural world and face an unthinkable betrayal.
Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Departed) stars as Max Payne, a man who has little regard for rules - and nothing to lose - as he investigates a series of mysterious murders that could be tied to the death of his wife and child. But there are massive forces, both real and beyond imagination, that are conspiring to keep the devastating truth hidden - and Max forever silenced.
Joining Wahlberg in MAX PAYNE are Mila Kunis as Mona Sax, a beautiful Russian mobster and assassin; Olga Kurylenko (who stars in the upcoming James Bond film Quantum of Solace) as Natasha, Mona's thrill-seeking younger sister; Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as Internal Affairs Detective Jim Bravura; and Beau Bridges as Max's mentor, B.B.
MAX PAYNE is directed by John Moore (The Omen, Behind Enemy Lines) from a screenplay by Beau Thorne, a recent graduate of the University of Texas film program. The film is produced by Julie Yorn (Bride Wars), Scott Faye and John Moore.
"This film is not 'Minimum Payne. And it's not 'Medium Payne'. It's Max Payne," sums up director John Moore, of his new motion picture, which Moore envisioned as a neo noir action-thriller that straddles a knife-edge between reality and the unreal. And Moore, a gifted visual stylist, should know. His use of subjective camera in the film - putting us directly in Max's world and in his head, as well as the use of state-of-the-art slow-motion cameras - hurtles audiences, along with Max, on a roller-coaster ride of action, thrills, mystery and startling, supernatural-tinged imagery.
But long before Moore started pushing things to the "max," the videogame "Max Payne" had its global debut in 2001; a sequel game, "Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne," followed in 2003. Critics and fans lauded the game's stylish choreography and cinematic nature; the game's dark, edgy scenes and slow-motion gunfights played out like a graphic novel with film noir influences. Few games translate well to the big screen, but from its inception it seemed as though the story of the hard-boiled cop out for revenge was destined to be played out on the big screen.
Says producer Julie Yorn: "The 'Max Payne' videogame was developed by people who were passionate about film. From the noir-style cinematography to its characters and dialogue, the game had major cinematic influences and the material transcended the typical videogame experience."
Nevertheless, the filmmakers faced formidable challenges in bringing MAX PAYNE to the big screen. "You think the adaptation process is going to be really straightforward when there's such a clear story and back story in the game," says Yorn. "But when you get into it you realize that you have to find a way to make the film distinct and different from the game while still respecting its unique style and spirit."
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