Max Payne (2008) dir. John Moore
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis,
Another video game adaptation to be disappointed in. John Moore’s adaptation of the popular and acclaimed first person killing machine narrative game of the same name tells the story of an ex-cop seeking revenge for the unsolved murder of his wife. A revenge flick based on a video game should be license to go hog wild and splatter us with cine carnage, blood, and other irresponsible behaviour. Unfortunately it fails to stimulate us enough to tolerate its slow and quiet pace.
Mark Wahlberg is Max Payne, a depressed cop whose wife was killed six months ago in a botched robbery. Now he spends his days as a file clerk for the cold case files. On the side though he’s still scouring the city for revenge. A lead takes him into the dark NYC underworld of drugs and prostitution. He hooks up with the sister (Mila Kunis) of a murdered junkie prostitute and together they solve the case and get revenge together.
Robert Rodriguez got it right with “Sin City” (I know, that was a graphic novel), but Moore never takes it to that level of entertainment. Moore attempts to do his ‘Sin City’ thing. The look, a sharp de-saturated expressionistic look feels like the same Frank Miller world. Even his quiet dialogue and sometime noiseless world feels like the same fantasy world of graphic novel noir.
The action scenes are choreographed with the same locked off storyboarded style of the Wachowski Bros. While it’s refreshing to see a classic technique in favour of over used handheld chaos, there just isn’t enough carnage or bloodshed. Moore shoots some nice super-slo-mo bullet shots, and shotgun blasts but he needed to add an exponential digit to it all to truly stimulate us.
The best part of Max Payne are the wonderfully realized ‘angels and demons’ which haunt the head-tripping minds of the Valkyr druggies. Anyone who takes this new street drug feels a sense of invulnerability but who become haunted and chased down by demonic Wagneresque winged beasts. It provides a number of wonderfully gothic individual images.
Beau Bridges is simply terrible and miscast as Payne pal....(beware SPOILERS)… and of course nemesis. At the second act turn his malfeasance is revealed in a eye-rolling confession just before Payne is dumped into the river to die.
Despite all this Payne was a considerable success. Moore does the most with a meager $35million budget, grossing almost $85million in North America. The Blu-Ray disc now released offers a fine making of documentary, one of the better ones in recent memory. We get to see the bombastic John Milius lookalike Moore directing the film with a fun fuck-the-world of archaic attititude. If Moore’s energy were applied to a decent script (not, “The Omen” remake, or “Flight of the Phoenix” remake) we just might discover a bright and talented director.
“Max Payne” is available on Blu-Ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment