based on the popular third-person shooting video game, max payne: the movie came out seven years after max payne: the game. marky mark as mark wahlberg is maxi max payne. though he doesn’t go up against terrorists as he would have in real life, his nemesis is big corporation, a pharmaceutical corporation, the 1% of a major pharmaceutical corporation even. so it’s something we can still relate today.
as in max payne: the game, max payne: the movie opens with maxi max in the middle of a situation, then it flashes back to three years ago when his wife and baby were killed. instead of a cop, he is now alone in what looks like the police station basement heading the cold case division but still trying to track down the guilty parties.
along the way he meets mila kunis, who thinks that marky mark killed her sister (olga kurylenko from hitman and quantum of solace), beau bridges as the head of security where payne’s wife worked, another bridges: chris “ludacris” bridges (from the 2006 best picture crash) as an in
fternal affairs investigator, and donal logue (the tao of steve) as payne’s former partner. robin, from batman and robin even shows up as a higher up of the pharmaceutical corporation.
wikipedia is blacked out at the moment so i’ll just assume that beau bridges and chris “ludacris” bridges are related. i’m sure they called each other brothers on the set. it’s kind of funny that jeff bridges is not mentioned, since he played the same role as beau in the first iron man movie.
i haven’t played the game in more than a decade. though i remember liking it though i don’t think it’s as classic as it’s made out to be (it doesn’t help that this is a rock star game and it was released two months after the much celebrated grand theft auto iii). the major selling point was the option of bullet time, which the first matrix movie introduced two years prior. hype had it that it was going to be a john woo/chow yun fat experience in game form, which at the time was true. but with the release of woo’s video game stranglehold that features voice work by chow yun fat, it kind of makes max payne: the game irrelevant nowadays. in truth, the game is more along the lines of noir graphic novels with action scenes in between. it’s more sin city than hard-boiled.
and because of that, it’s an asset to the movie that they didn’t go the action-packed bullet-ballet route. not only is it more faithful to the game, it also infuses the film with elements of surprises. we definitely do not need another shooter movie maxing out on bullet time in 2008 (puns, maxed).
despite some missteps in editing in the opening scenes, the first 50 minutes or so of max payne: the movie is actually not horrible. there aren’t much in the way of action scenes but it’s a competent noir detective drama. it’s a faint praise but considering the fact that i’m no fan of marky mark or kunis (hates that 70s show, sarah marshall overrated, black swan pretty good), it’s something. they actually managed some surprises plot-wise. as much as i want to hate it, marky mark is decent in BRUCE morose mode. he more or less looks and dresses for the part, even though i thought the max payne in the first game is the guy from grand theft auto iii.
kunis, despite being shown as the partner, doesn’t actually get much screen time. in fact, at times it makes you questions why she’s even in the movie at all. since kunis and olga are sisters (the blood related kind, not the girl power kind) they can’t even do a portman/kunis scene like black swan. and as i recall, no one talked to a plant, not even in the unrated version.
unfortunately, there’s not enough material to support a decent 100-minute movie. character motivations and plot points get murkier as the movie progresses. and when the action scenes finally come, they are passable but nothing memorable. i am glad that they didn’t do too much bullet time and they manage to look less digital as the matrix and its followers. (there is one scene late in the movie when marky mark bends over backward to shoot a guy. it’s -ahem- ludacris but still nowhere as laughable as anything in the happening.) this is not supposed to be sci-fi but that didn’t stop them to add some kind of mythological beast that’s not in the game. it’s not only overdone and tiresome but also reminds you of the crow sequels.
as far as video game based movies go, this is above crapfest like doom or hitman, but not as much fun as doa: dead or alive or even double dragon. it’s less um…zombie-like run-of-the-mill products like the resident evil movies. translating video games onto the big screen is a tricky thing. staying too close to the game and hence taking away the interactive portions, it becomes a bore; change too much and the fanboys revolt. max payne: the movie includes just enough elements from the game (the red flashes when max gets hurt, the opening in the subway station, the always snowy/always nighttime cinematography) and adds/changes things that doesn’t improve on the source material. dependent on your cinematic diet, max payne: the movie is the most polished direct-to-video theatrical release i’ve ever seen.
p.s. director john moore’s next movie is something called die hard v: a good day to die hard. he also directed the owen wilson action movie behind enemy lines, the remake of flight of the phoenix and the remake of the omen. interestingly, marky mark is also quite fond of remakes (tim burton’s planet of the apes, the truth about charlie, the italian job 2003, the departed, and the current #1 movie in america: contraband), but he’s no stranger to mediocre remakes. i think it turned out better than this: