Max Payne
Who’s that peepin’ through my window?

Theatrical Release Date: 10/17/2008
Director: John Moore
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Chris O’Donnell, Amaury Nolasco, Donal Logue, Nelly Furtado

Let’s get the best thing about “Max Payne” out of the way – the new Bond girl in the upcoming “Quantum of Solance”, Olga Kurylenko. Now that I’ve done what I can to speak favorably of the film, on with the review.

Based on the video game of the same name, “Max Payne” follows a cop (Marky Mark) searching for his family’s killer – your basic tale of revenge and redemption. He’s aided by a beautiful “assassin” (Mila Kunis) and the “neat” element that “separates” this from any other film is that the bad guys have a drug that makes you more powerful but could also cause hallucinations involving winged demons.

Along the way, everyone’s favorite rapper turned actor, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, plays an Internal Affairs investigator, Beau Bridges disproves any notion that he’d left this mortal coil, and even Nelly Furtado gets an appearance here as the wife of Wahlberg’s former partner (Donal Logue).

Actually, if I’m being fair, I will commend the art direction on the film. “Max Payne” is basically a cross between “Sin City” and “Constantine” (stylistically). The otherworldly atmosphere and constant digital snow effects help to distract your brain from how bad the film truly is.

Of course, then director John Moore just doesn’t know when to stop and has to include the use of a camera system capable of shooting over 1000 frames a second – creating super bullet time … or as I like to call it, completely unnecessary and poorly used time. While technically impressive, whenever this technology is implemented, it usually highlights a scene that either doesn’t need it or is completely ruined by the sudden stop to the action.

Perhaps the best way to put it would be to watch a Bruce Lee film, and right before he hits the fourth guy in the room, pause the film … then advance frame by frame … once the punch lands thirty seconds later, resume normal play. Wasn’t that fun, kids?

The script does no one any favors either. Instead of taking the premise of the video game and cloaking it in something good, the plot progresses like the audience has reached the next level and skipped the cut scenes in-between that serve as transition. Now, that’s good and bad in this case because it made the film end sooner … but maybe it would have been possible to invest in the characters had their been any real development to them.

Of course, even with a better script, I’m not sure the casting department was of much help in crafting a more complete film (or was the director in his apparent lust for visuals over substance). Wahlberg seems to show as much grief over his dead family as he might if someone else ate the sandwich in his lunch box. As much as I love her (which is more than I should), there’s no way I’m convinced Mila Kunis is a hardcore assassin (though seeing her reconnect with her Soviet roots was fun). I think Ludacris got involved by accident, walking from one end of the studio lot to the other and Beau Bridges’ (SPOILER) seemed to follow in his brother’s footsteps from “Iron Man” – creating a villain so measly that Brendan Fraser’s stand-in could probably kick his ass.

Not having ever played the video game, I can’t say whether or not the movie was a faithful adaptation. However, if it was, you have permission to shoot me in the head should I ever think of playing the game. “Max Payne” is a train wreck, mixing a bad script with lackluster acting, inattentive direction and the excitement of opening round golf on the radio. While I was never truly hoping for a natural disaster, projector explosion or heart attack, I would rather have sat at home and washed dishes.

“Max Payne” gets a 1 out of 5, that one point being fully credited to the art department and production team behind the style of the film. While the people walking and talking are a complete waste, some of the images are pretty. I suppose that’s worth something.

Oh, and should you make the terrible decision to see this film, there is an additional scene after the credits … but it’s not nearly as good as watching Mark Wahlberg talk to animals.