Lacking the action that most hardcore fans have come to expect, “Max Payne” still delivers a gratifying adaptation that most video game films usually seem to fail at.
Directed by John Moore (“The Omen,” 2006), the film is based on the video game series which consists of two games released in 2001 and 2003.
The film stars Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg, “The Happening,” 2008) as a cop who is obsessed with finding the murderer who killed his wife and daughter.
As the movie progresses, Payne goes to a party and meets the sultry Natasha Sax (Olga Kurylenko, “Hitman,” 2007) and her sister, the assassin Mona Sax (Mila Kunis, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” 2008).
Payne then takes Natasha back to his place but quickly kicks her out of his apartment when she says that she will pretend to be like his former wife in bed.
This makes Payne angry because he is still intent on finding his wife’s murderer and doesn’t like for anyone to talk about his wife in a degrading matter.
Upset, Natasha walks out of Payne’s apartment and into an alley, where she is slain by a flying demonic hallucination that only she can see after taking the drug valkyr, which was originally created for soldiers to increase their ability to combat.
The next day, Payne is considered the prime suspect in Natasha’s death because she had Payne’s wallet at the time. The police force that Payne works for suddenly turns against him and Payne decides to solve Natasha’s case on his own. Mona then confronts Payne, thinking that Payne is responsible for her sister’s death as well.
The story in the film does not stray too far from the story in the games, which is good for Max Payne fans, but the problem is that there isn’t much story to begin with.
Besides the search that Payne conducts for his wife and the crazy hallucinations that people see in the form of Valkyries (Norse mythological gods that pluck away fallen warriors from the battlefield and transport them away to Valhalla), there really isn’t much substance in the plot to keep it moving.
Wahlberg’s portrayal of Payne was spot on. His acting reflected the complex and determined demeanor that Payne is known for.
On the other hand, Kunis playing the part of the deadly assassin Mona just does not fit right. She should stick to her role as Meg in “Family Guy” and leave all the dark and moody characters to people who know how to play them well. In Kunis’s defense however, her character doesn’t have a great deal of background and she serves almost no purpose to the plot, so not many actresses could’ve portrayed Mona much better anyway.
Another actor in the movie who didn’t really fit in with the story was Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, the rapper, playing the part of Jim Bravura, an internal affairs agent. His appearance in the movie seems really out of place. It would have been better if he played the part of one of thugs in the beginning of the movie so he could have a chance to get all gangsta’ on Payne.
It would have also been better if the film tried to be more like the games by focusing more on the action. After all, the movie is an adaptation of the game. While there were some great action scenes, they were few and far between. However, those few action scenes did make up for all the drama that Payne had to deal with in the first three quarters of the film.
The action scenes were awe-inspiring and intense because they included the concept of “bullet-time,” a technique in the game which allowed the player to slow the movement of time. In the movie, there were a few scenes where “bullet-time” was incorporated, showing each individual bullet flying across the room. Those scenes were pretty awesome but not used enough.
The cinematography of the film was equivalent to the game’s environments. In the game, New York City was mostly empty, but in the film version there are many people wandering around in the streets. Also, the snowy feel of New York City and all its dark alleys match with the mood of the film.
One staple in the videogame franchise that does not appear in the film is the dark and disturbing narrative provided by Payne, which offers a gateway into what Payne is thinking. Adding the narrative would’ve been helpful to understand what Payne was doing as the scenes shifted a bit too quickly.
The only real problem that really damaged this movie was the script. It was awfully stale and weak and it failed at expressing the characters’ emotions.
Speaking of characters, most of them didn’t have a history at all. If the viewer didn’t know anything about the game’s story, they wouldn’t know who was who until much later when a line or two was said about them.
In general, “Max Payne” isn’t the best movie currently out there, but for a videogame adaptation, it was better than most (which probably isn’t saying much).
I recommend seeing it for the action scenes, if only for that and enjoying it for what it is without expecting an Oscar-worthy presentation.
“Max Payne” is rated PG-13 for violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language. Distributed by 20th Century Fox, the running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.
My rating is 3 out of 5 stars.