16 October 2008

Max Payne

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Chris O’Donnel

Screenplay by Beau Thorne, Directed by John Moore

** (out of ****)

Nifty poster, yeah? Too bad the movie is nothing resembling that. If I had the opportunity to meet up with the marketing people responsible for the trailer and poster for
Max Payne, I would attempt to kick some serious Karate Kid-ass on their behinds for misleading me (and the general public). All signs indicated an apocalyptic, Constantine (2005)-like movie – something right up my alley. Imagine my complete and utter disappointment when it was revealed this movie was about a bad drug. Whops, was that a spoiler? (assuming no one played the game before) Feel glad, I just saved you $10.

Mark Wahlberg plays NYPD officer Max Payne, currently working in their Cold Case department; before he was working homicide with his friend (the dude who was Nicholas Cage’s friend in Ghost Rider (2006), and the dude talking about “the pretty lights” in Dark Knight), but the death of his wife and child three years ago has set him in depressed mood, and he now spends his time looking for anything that can lead to new details about why they were killed. His detective works brings about a connection between a street-drug called VALKYR and the Aesir Corporation. This drug makes the individual fairly strong and fearless – downside, they also hallucinate giant winged angel-like beasts. Max is connected to a homicide; people don’t believe his side of the story. Thus, Payne goes outside the law to track down the people responsible for murdering his wife and children and shipping out this crazy drug. Throughout, we are treated to two giant shoot-em-up moments, and, I daresay, they’re pretty damn entertaining!

Payne opens up pretty damn well: Detective Max Payne unconscious, drowning, while he gives a monologue to the extent of, “Look at them, reaching out to grab me like I’m one of them.’ (meaning the bodies below) A pause; ‘Easy mistake to make.’ See, now that’s a fantastic technique to engage the viewer and make them want to stick around to see how the character ended up where he does. Unfortunately for us, the paying audience, the movie doesn’t engage and the poorly-written script is quite laughable (because, really, how could one screw up something this simple?)

One thing it does do right…slightly…is that it emphasizes story over action. Obviously, the flick has the mandatory action sequences (which are quite satisfactory; not Shoot 'Em Up (2007) quality, more like it’s five-year old kid), but the story takes the front and center seat. However, like I said, the script blows. Laughable, clichéd dialogue; once certain plot points (or characters) are introduced, you know every beat of the entire flick. Oh, wait, Payne actually does another thing right…scratch that, well: its visuals. Sometimes creeping into Sin City (2006) territory with a almost black & white plate to vibrant colors (such as flashes of red symbolizing one hell of a beating), Payne is quite a visual beauty to behold.

Acting wise, nothing falling under the remarkable category, but passes for being a video game adaptation flick. Wahlberg is pretty much his character from The Departed as far as tone, but lacking the smart dialogue and charisma. Best thing that can be said for the actor is that this was definitely a few hundred steps better than this summer’s bogus load of bollocks The Happening, though any fault with that movie is solely attributed to Shyamalan himself. Mila Kunis shows up as a…something. At one point she tells Payne, “You know what I am, and you know what I can do.’ However, we’re not really explained what it is exactly she does. As for me, I’m assuming she’s some sort of drug lord who keeps check of her domain, or perhaps a mercenary.

Not really in the mood to write anything else down about Max Payne other than if you really want to see it, wait ‘till you can pick it up as a DVD rental; it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and crafted better. It’s just…there.

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