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Max Payne

The 2008 movie starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by John Moore

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2 ½ Stars: Visually Impressive But the Very Hollow Plot hampers the Film

  • Feb 3, 2009

A review of the Unrated Director's Cut:

Video game to movie adaptations are almost a dime a dozen. Sure, there have been more misses than hits. I liked the movie adaptation of "Silent Hill", have very mixed feelings about the "Resident Evil" franchise, and I thought the recent "Hitman" adaptation was quite mediocre. So I decided to check out this latest video game adaptation of "Max Payne"--I mean I know it's going to be mediocre, so how bad can it really be? Well, I haven't played the video game, so I cannot make a comment how faithful it is to its source material, I am rather betting that it is VERY "loosely based". Otherwise, I would wonder how the video game became a hit, because this film is definitely not. While comic book adaptations have achieved respect from Hollywood, it seems like video game franchises have not.

A brooding detective named Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is working the cold case files in the hopes of finding his wife's murderer. His wife and child were killed by a trio of junkies and while he killed two of them, one is still out there. One night, he hooks up with a beautiful girl named Natasha (Olga Kurylenko) and the next day, she is found cut to many pieces. She had Max's wallet in her hand which prompted his former partner Alex (Donal Logue) to cover for him and ends up dead. Natasha's sister Mona (Mila Kunis) is a mob assassin who comes looking for Payne, and the situation gets worst as they decide to pool their resources. Max finds out that his wife's murder three years ago, may be linked to the pharmaceutical company she used to work for. There is a designer drug out in the streets that causes confidence and calmness all the more feeling invincible--this drug was meant for the use of the military to strengthen morale but dumped because of its hallucinogenic side effects. Now, Max must find a soldier named Lupino to uncover the truth--but the truth may just lead him to a family friend named BB (Beau Bridges)…

The problems with the film is the fact that the screenplay by Beau Throne feels very befuddled. Nothing special really happens and the film is downright predictable. The links to Natasha's killing and Max's wife feels like a throw-away detail, a drug with military potential is used as a designer drug, a huge corporation wishing to make a profit out of a mistake, a murdered partner, betrayal by a family friend, all are overused ideas. Ok, I'll try to be nice, there are a lot of movies that follow the same formulas but the way the script is structured is just so empty and dull. The film just throws out the routine cop with a mission of vengeance with a very hollow execution as director John Moore (responsible for the abysmal Omen remake) opts for a repetitive narrative as the film goes on. There is nothing daring, exciting or dramatic in the proceedings, all it does is go through the entire motivations and Max's intentions over and over again. The film doesn't offer anything inventive and feels like the film's script has been rewritten hundreds of times.

For reasons unknown, the film doesn't even develop on its remaining aces. Mila Kunis' character is so severely underused--Her promise as a supreme hot girl with a big gun goes nowhere. The film's opening act with the potential for "Norse Valkyries" as a soldier's guardian angel was pitched into the plot but abandoned, in favor of a lame idea of a corporate scheme to make profit out of a failed drug that uses it as idolatry. "Human Arousal machine" and Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko has a very small role and disappears before her presence can inspire excitement from the male audience. (sorry no sex or nudity here) The film also leaves a lot of things unresolved and undeveloped, it‘s predictability and clichés do hurt the film. The images of the valkyries only end up as "eye-candy" as Max shoots his way to the final showdown in the midst of visions of Valhalla on Earth.

The action isn't that good either. Director Moore uses an over-abundant use of slow motion in an attempt to look cool and emulate a "matrix-like" style. The gunfights also have that Asian inspiration as Max leaps, and avoids bullets with ease--either he's really good or these bad guys just supremely suck. The cinematography of the film is nice and emulates a moody and gloomy atmosphere (what is up with this style?). The CGI generated environment is pretty and looks cool. The camera work by Jonathan Shea is decent and the special effects weren't bad as Max rampages through the cosmic hallucinations to reach his end goal. Unfortunately, whatever the film achieved visually is overshadowed by the film's flaws that all the special effects and gorgeous set designs just couldn't save the film from becoming a lost. It does make it more acceptable but not by much.

Mark Wahlberg is a decent lead, I liked him in "The Departed" and "Shooter". The man isn't the best performer but he did what he could with whatever little he has to work with. Beau Bridges makes for a ungainly antagonist-- his character is just so underwhelming and uninteresting that you wonder what the fuss was all about. Meg Griffin is also severely underused and her character is left hanging (maybe hints of a sequel?) The film does have some humble pay off amid all the bad screenplay, and it would have helped for more developed characters.

I suppose the film's enjoyment would depend on just how much of a fan you are of the video game. The film is a just a decent visual feast and so below the standards of a great action flick--that it fails even more as below average video game adaptation. Director John Moore almost does turn the tables but it was just too little, too late. The film is full of unnecessary prattle and so little excitement. The film is a brainless attempt and you may want to take a nap until the eye candy effects take over in the final act.

RENTAL [2 ½ Stars]

Note: There is nothing special about the unrated cut except for the extra bloody clouds when a bullet hits its target.

Video/Audio: 2.35 ratio anamorphic widescreen. Beautiful transfer--clean, black levels are strong and solid. The colors are intentionally muted to give it a noir-like feel. 5.1 Dolby Digital track is very clear and powerful.

Extras: I didn't bother but it does look interesting, as Moore explains why he diverted from the source material.

Dvd cover scene scene scene scene with Olga Kurylenko

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July 25, 2010
I felt the same way man this flick just lacked
July 25, 2010
I know. Mila Kunis and Olga Kurylenko should've been more utilized.
February 04, 2009
I agree with the Queen B on this one. I've yet to see a worthy film adaptation of a video game. And Woo, you absolutely summed up this film for me. Hollow. I actually fell asleep the first two times that I tried to watch this and that never happens with me. The real problem is that the story of the renegade loner cop out to avenge his family is just way too familiar, and the screenplay fails to give us any reason to become emotionally invested in the characters. Now if the film had a lot of action that might have made up for it, at least partly. But there isn't any real action until the last half-hour or so. And was I the only one who thought that the references to Norse mythology were really lame, not to mention kind of ripping off the mythology motifs in the Matrix sequels?
February 04, 2009
Film adaptations of video games are never my first, second, or even third choice for movie entertainment so I'm not this film's taget audience. Good thing too, your review more than convinces me that even if I WERE there would be nothing here for me.
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review by . July 04, 2010
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      MAX PAYNE      It seems that while most movies based on a game are usually poorly received [and usually for good reason] Hollywood continues to make these movies in hopes that fans of the game will come out to see the movie. Now I am not one of those people who are against this concept as I have enjoyed most of those movies, including this one. Now this film is far from a classic and to be honest isn't great but it is good. I tend to turn the old …
review by . June 17, 2009
I never expected MAX PAYNE to be particularly good. The video game was pure, first-person shoot-`em-up excitement, with the usual negligible plot, but with great locations, a cool, snowblown look and lots of things to shoot at. So while I didn't expect great things from a movie based on such flimsy material...I at least expected some ACTION!!    For much of the movie, though, PAYNE is paced like a methodical police procedural with occasional very brief bursts of action. By the …
review by . January 21, 2009
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I remember seeing the trailer for this movie and still not having a clue what it was all about, I was confused by it but then saw the movie anyway because my boyfriend really wanted to, bad mistake...after the movie was finished even he though that Max Paine was a pain to watch.     With flaws up to the kazoo, it's hard to pin point why this movie sucks. I have never played the game but that shouldn't be the reason why it was unclear what the heck was going on. Mark Wahlberg …
review by . December 19, 2008
Max Payne: I don't believe in Heaven. I believe in Pain. I believe in Fear. I believe in Death.     Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):   1.   This is an action movie based on a video game 2.   Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is a detective whose driving passion is to find the people who murdered his family. 3.   While following up on likely leads, he meets a young woman named Natasha, and having no etchings, he takes her home to see her tattoos 4.   …
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About this movie


2008 noir action film based on the video game of the same name. This movie stars Mark Wahlberg as a NYC cop who investigates the death of his family in the city's criminal underground.

Any film based on a first-person shooter video game should, as a rule of thumb, be full of epic shootouts on a level equal to Sergio Leone or the Wachowski Brothers, and in that regard,Max Payneis an unqualified success. Mark Wahlberg also lives up to the game's pedigree by brooding mightily as the title hero, a big city detective mourning the murder of his wife and child. Revenge is, of course, Payne's ultimate goal, and with the assistance of slinky Russian hitwoman Mila Kunis, he dishes it out in elaborate set pieces overflowing with gymnastic gun play. Viewers seeking just that and nothing more will get their money's worth from John Moore's film adaptation, and most likely be impressed by its fashionably gloomy art direction and cinematography. Those seeking a bit more than gunpowder and gristle will find Max Payne utterly derivative of a half-dozen better films (Christopher Nolan'sBatmanfilms, most notably) and violent to the point of cartoon absurdity. They may find some refuge in appealing supporting turns by Donal Logue and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as diametrically opposed cops and Beau Bridges, who offers his usual roguish charm as Payne's former superior.--Paul Gaita
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Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: October 17, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: January 20, 2009
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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