Film Review: Max Payne (15)By Kim Francis
November 20, 2008
Movie adaptations of computer games are notoriously dire. From Street Fighter to Mortal Kombat and Doom to Silent Hill, the list is littered with detritus.
So, although the bar was set low for Max Payne, the latest Hollywood video game adaptation, the hype would have us believe that it might actually be the one to break with tradition and resemble something approaching decent. Sadly, it isn’t.
The story is a fairly simple one at heart. Max Payne is a vigilante thriller with a bit of military intrigue thrown in.
Following the brutal killing of his wife and child, maverick cop Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is working in the cold case unit when he starts looking deeper into the events that surround their murder.
When an encounter with beautiful druggie Natasha Sax (Olga Kurylenko) results in her death, apparently at the hands/talons/wings/fangs of a shadowy flying creature, Max finds himself drawn into a mysterious underworld that will result in the discovery of his wife’s killer and the revelation that there are some seriously damaging military secrets being kept under wraps.
Despite expectations of an action film, Max Payne is actually flat and ponderous with few thrills and spills.
It is slow to get moving and, despite running for around an hour and 40 minutes, it feels 40 minutes too long.
Mark Wahlberg is fine, albeit a little unengaging, as the titular hero but the rest of the cast put in relatively underwhelming performances. Particularly disappointing is the pretty Mila Kunis, who plays Mona Sax, sister of the dead Natasha.
Sweet and promising in her role as the receptionist in comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, here she is harsh, unpleasant and unconvincing.
The dark, washed-out look to Max Payne is reminiscent of The Crow and Sin City but the film also steals from The Matrix and The Bourne Identity; in fact, the opening sequence resonates deafeningly with the start of the Bourne series.
It does have much to thank The Matrix for however, in that it lends inspiration for its best scene, which utilises the Wachowski Brothers-pioneered ‘bullet time’ method of filming to create a breathtaking sequence that sees Max jumping backwards in slow motion while firing his gun upwards at the bad guy who simultaneously shoots back.
If only the rest of the film could have been as exciting and, frankly, cool as this.
Max Payne has the feel of a comic book adaptation but if it’s this that you’re after, you would do well to save your money for next year’s Watchmen; one film that looks set to truly astonish.