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Max Payne (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

Max Payne

MAX PAYNE (2008)

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Chris O’Donnell, Donal Logue, Amaury Nolasco, Kate Burton, Olga Kurylenko, Rothaford Gray, Joel Gordon, Jamie Hector, Andrew Friedman, Marianthi Evans and Nelly Furtado.

Screenplay by Beau Thorne.

Directed by John Moore.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 100 minutes. Rated PG-13.

There has never been a good film made from a computer game. Not once. Not Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Hitman or Alone in the Dark. Not Silent Hill, Super Mario Brothers or Doom. Not Resident Evil or PacMan: The Movie… Okay, I made up that last one. However, there are many other movies which I have not listed which are just as bad as the motley crew above.

Max Payne does not break the losing streak.

The problem is a very basic one. Computer games are not about character or plot or thinking things through. They are about reacting. They are about stimulus. They usually only have time to impart a very basic plotline before throwing as much mayhem as possible at the screen. Visual style is much more important than substance. The only real ramifications they provide is the possibility of seeing the words “Game Over” flashing on your screen.

This lack of deep thought and background is okay – perhaps even necessary – in a game. However, it is deadly in a movie.

In many ways Max Payne is stylishly filmed and put together and yet at the same time it is a stylistic mess. The filmmakers couldn’t seem to be able to decide if it was an old-fashioned noir, a gritty modern urban nightmare or a futuristic cyberpunk fantasy and thus it becomes an uncomfortable mishmash of all of the above.

There are some dueling storylines – all pretty standard claptrap and yet none of it really makes much sense. It’s also all pretty obvious – you know who the eventual baddy will be the first time he appears on screen.

Max (Mark Wahlberg) is a completely deadened cop looking for the man who killed his wife and baby son. That murder has something to do with the military, a drug company and these black wraith-like creatures attacking people on the streets of New York.

Add in some generic bad-guys, super-powered soldiers, lots and lots of submachine gun rounds and a Russian assassin played by Mila Kunis. Mila Kunis? Really? I do like her as an actress and thought she was terrific in her last breakthrough role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but it’s kind of tough buying her as a cold-blooded hit woman.

Cue lots of explosions, predictable plot twists and some ridiculous stunts (at one point, Max shoots a bad guy with the gun over his head while he is falling backwards in slow motion – at the same time that his target misses Payne with four bullets while actually looking at and aiming for him).

It all makes little sense, but it’s not supposed to. There are extended scenes of the audience just sitting back and watching as Max picks off dozens of bad guys while dodging every bullet coming his way.

It’s sort of like watching someone else play the computer game – only even less entertaining.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: January 20, 2009.

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