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  Publicity Stills of
"Max Payne"
(Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

Director: John Moore
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Chris O' Donnell, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Mila Kunis, Donal Logue, Amaury Nolasco
RunTime: 1 hr 25 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://www.maxpaynemovie.com/

Opening Day: 16 October 2008


Based on the legendary, hard-hitting interactive video game, MAX PAYNE tells the story of a maverick cop determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his family and partner. Hell-bent on revenge, his obsessive investigation takes him on a nightmare journey into a dark underworld. As the mystery deepens, Max (Wahlberg) is forced to battle enemies beyond the natural world and face an unthinkable betrayal.

Movie Review:

Max Payne has plenty of guns and an endless stream of ammo. What it does not have is story and originality.

Based on the Remedy Entertainment video game, Max Payne is the vengeful antihero determined to avenge the deaths of his beautiful wife and daughter. By day, he works as a desk clerk at the Cold Case Unit of the police department. By night, he prowls the streets in search of revenge.

The bare bones story has him implicated in the murder of an alluring Russian femme fatale Natasha, who spots the same mysterious tattoo as one of the assailants who murdered his family. So he sets off to track down the origins of the tattoo and finds that it is linked to some angels and demons folklore from a long time ago.

Lest the trailers let you think it goes down the way of Constantine, let me assure you that it does not. The supernatural references are just a sidenote, and indeed even a sideshow entirely superfluous to the story. Instead, the villains that Max Payne fights against are corporations, in this context pharmaceuticals, involved in a conspiracy that has post-9/11 references.

While the story starts off interesting, it soon becomes clear that whatever plot is contained within is simply a mechanism to move the action from one point to another. There is nary a shred of mystery who the baddies are, and one wonders why it takes Max Payne so long to piece together the clues of the puzzle.
But what is more vexing is how derivative the movie is. Max Payne the video game was known for its use of bullet time- the slowing of the passage of time when triggered even as the player can move and react in real time. If this sounds a tad familiar, it is because the series had a major cinematic influence, and that is, the John Woo slow-mo gunplay.

So what we see here is really something copied from film into a video game and now back into film again. The use of bullet time may have upped the cool factor in the game, but they have quite the opposite effect here in the film. Instead, the few and far in between use of it appears to be an attempt to appease fans of the game.
Director John Moore’s vision of the world of Max Payne is a dark and seedy New York City that looks suspiciously like Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City. From the grimy dark allies to its unsavoury characters, Moore borrows heavily from the look of feel of a far superior movie. Even Johnathan Sela’s cinematography comes across as just as deliberate.

Mark Wahlberg plays the titular character and he may be the best thing that the movie has going for it. But the recent Academy Award winner for “The Departed” is of late involved in films that wastes his potential, and Max Payne is another such example. There are few actors in Hollywood that can play the sensitive action hero character, but there are too many similarities between his role here and that in last year’s Shooter. In fact, Wahlberg even plays Max Payne with the same brooding look and macho swagger.

True to its origins therefore, Max Payne has loads of action but not much of a story. Worse still, its action sequences are also oddly uninvolving. So if you’re a fan of the game, you’re really better off playing it yourself. If you’re not, there’s nothing much here to look forward to.

Movie Rating:

(All Payne and no gain)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. Babylon A.D. (2008)

. Hitman (2007)

. Shooter (2007)

. The Departed (2006)

. Four Brothers (2005)

. Flight of the Phoenix (2004)

. We Own the Night DVD (2007)


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