Friday, October 17, 2008

Max Payne (Movie Review)

This movie provides only a mediocre diversion to your afternoon or evening. Once again, a filmmaker fails to capture, in a movie adaptation, the elements that make the video game what it is.

I've played and enjoyed the first and second Max Payne video games for PS2. What fan could forget the hallmarks of a Max Payne game? That dark, film-noir voice-over that takes you through the plot, a grizzled hero popping painkillers to avoid succumbing to his multiple wounds, and gunfights with bullet-time. Lots of bullet-time.

This film failed to deliver on all three counts. The only narration we get from Payne is at the beginning and end of the film. Everything in between departs from this style of storytelling. Throughout the film, when Wahlberg speaks, you are reminded of how much he sounds like Mark Wahlberg and how little he brings to mind Max Payne. Don't get me wrong, Wahlberg did a fine job. They just cast the wrong guy in this part.

As for painkillers, we don't see a single pill popped. Max does make use of something else to keep him going near the end of the film, but it's not quite the same. And did I mention it's near the END of the film?

It almost seems like the writers said, "Let's see how long we can make our audience wait for the gunfights in this movie." The first half of this movie moves pretty slowly as it sets up the mystery. But with no memorable style in the storytelling method, the first 40 minutes tend to crawl.

There are brief moments of action and special effects, but not the kind that fans would expect. Instead of putting that special effects team to work on numerous slow-mo gunfight sequences, we see a ton of "hallucination sequences" as characters experience the effects of an illegal drug which acts as the centerpiece to the film.

People are tripping out seeing winged wraiths and it all looks very cool. It just doesn't feel like a Max Payne story.

The bullet-time moments are few and far between, and one or two seem to have been chosen from the script at random, not being used to heighten the action or increase intensity. Just suddenly going into bullet-time for no dramatic reason.

There are also no surprises in this film. Even though you sense that you're not supposed to know who the bad guys are, when they turn out to be evil, you've already been waiting 30 minutes for it.

As for Relevance, there's not much to talk about. If you and a buddy both like the flick, you could potentially talk about justice and vigilantism. (When, if ever, is it right for us to buck the authorities and take the law into our own hands?) However, the script doesn't spend time focusing on this theme, so you have to pull it out yourself.

There is one interesting phrase spoken by the title character, "I don't know about heaven. But I do believe in angels." If we feel like being philosophical and picking apart this idea, we could ask "why does Max believe in creatures called 'angels' and not heaven?" This phrase is subtle and not a focus of the film, but it is a small reminder of our tendency to pick and choose what we believe about the supernatural, as though reality will conform to our preferences.

The film leaves plenty of room for a franchise, but I don't see it happening. In fact, this movie may turn interest away from another game, too. It's not that it's bad, it just isn't much good. Wait for it to play on TV. But Tivo it to skip commercials. You don't want to spend too much time on this movie.

Rated PG-13 for violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language

Quality: 7.0/10.0

Relevance: 5.0/10.0

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