Tuesday, November 04, 2008

418 - Max Payne review



“Max Payne” is a film about a gunfighter that cares less about guns than I do. It’s adapted from the excellent video game series about a hard boiled cop who blasts his way through legions of gangsters to avenge the murder of his wife and daughter. Imagine my surprise to discover that nearly an hour of “Max Payne” passes before any serious action sequence occurs, something that wouldn’t fly in a video game. The rules of cinema are different from those of Playstation, but the film’s mangling of the game’s story does it no favors.

The titular protagonist, played by Mark Wahlberg, is a glum, humorless man who spends his nights stalking the streets in search of his wife’s killer. If my family was murdered, I might wear a perpetual scowl, too, but Max Payne’s electronic counterpart cracked jokes and had a heart that extended beyond the lust for vengeance. Spending an hour and a half with this gloomy, dull man is exhausting, and that’s without the firefights.

The story presents us with exactly one character that could be the culprit, so those in the audience who have seen five or more movies in their lives will have some cell phone clock checking to do. Just look for the friendly face played by a recognizable yet B-list actor and wait for the betrayal followed by an exposition.

The plot surrounding the revenge tale involves a huge corporation that has invented a drug that is supposed to make soldiers “invulnerable” in combat. Curiously, this invulnerability means that the user suffers horrible hallucinations and simply walks straight into the line of fire when a gun battle breaks out. If there’s anything the military needs, it’s to addict their soldiers to a drug that makes them trip and completely disregard their own safety.

Max acquires a partner named Mona (Mila Kunis), an assassin who decides to help him out because the script told her to. We wait patiently for something to happen between the two (for that matter, we wait patiently for the credits to roll), but if Max can’t find a black-clad Mila Kunis appealing, then they should just clear a spot for him at the morgue.

The film can’t possibly satisfy fans of the game, nor will the lumbering plot satiate the bloodlust of an action junkie, and fans of the detective story will be put off by an incoherent narrative that strangely exists just to set up the so-so bullet ballet finale. It’s rated PG-13 and visibly chafes against the content restriction, similar to how the viewer chafes against the imaginary obligation to sit through the screening without walking out. Pic sports a look that looks like the filmmakers couldn’t decide if they wanted to imitate a classic noir or “Sin City,” so they went with both, with painful results.

1 comment:

Toto said...

Is it me or is Wahlberg's career starting to take a seriously downward turn?