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Max Payne (2008)


  • Review: * (out of ****)
  • Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Chris O'Donnell, Donal Logue, Amaury Nolasco, Kate Burton, Olga Kyrlenko, Rothaford Gray, Joel Gordon, Jamie Hector, Andrew Friedman, Marianthi Evans, Nelly Furtado
  • Director: John Moore
  • Screenplay: Beau Thorne (Video Game by Remedy Entertainment and 3-D Realms Entertainment, Created by Sam Lake)
  • Length: 100 min.
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language.

Video games have never been a great source of strong filmic material, but they continue to make these big screen adaptations a source of consternation for critics. This time, they are adapting the ultra-violent shooter Max Payne for audiences eager for their next adrenaline fix.

The story surrounds a disgruntled cop named Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) who is still stewing over the murder of his wife several years prior and the lack of movement since to solve the crime. But, he continues to search secretly for her killer. As the story unfolds, new information is about to fall into his lap that will lead him to a bloody (sans blood) showdown with the murderer.

Along the way, he is helped and/or hindered by a semi-colorful array of characters. Within the first half-hour, it's not hard to decide which of the presented characters is the culprit. There's his ex-partner, Alex Balder (Donal Logue), the man he partially blames for the lack of resolution in the case; his ex-boss, BB Hensley (Beau Bridges), who is now chief of security for his wife's old pharmaceuticals firm; a drug-addicted Russian woman, Natasha (Olga Kurylenko), who picks him up at a party being held by one of his sources; Natasha's sister, Mona Sax (Mila Kunis), who seeks revenge after her death, a crime Max is of course suspected of committing; the internal affairs investigator, Jim Bravura (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges); one of his wife's co-workers, Jason Colvin (Chris O'Donnell) ; and the CEO of the pharmaceuticals firm, Nicole Horne (Kate Burton).

Aside from a horrendously predictable plot, screenwriter Beau Thorne, in his first assignment, manages to create paper-thin characters all bent on some manner or revenge or pitifully disguised as friends and associates, each one less believable than the next. And even for an action film, there is very minimal action violence, much of the film's running time being devoted to unraveling the supremely overused revenge/drug profiteering plot.

While the film doesn't inflict the maximum pain you would expect, it's still a relatively irritating experience. When Wahlberg's on the screen, at least there's someone interesting to watch, even if he wanders aimlessly through his character's motivations. Even less intriguing is Kunis, whose narcissistic character on That '70s Show had more depth. She is supposed to be a cool, butt-kicking "business" woman, but comes off as a charicature of said archetype. Bridges lacks emotional depth, Logue gives the same performance he's always given, and Kurylenko serves her only purpose as sex kitten well enough. The only actor to escape more or less unscathed is 'Ludacris' whose maturity as an actor is refreshing when surrounded by so much flotsam.

As history has shown, video game adaptations have long been a limitedly popular, but modestly profitable enterprise. Much of that success and the continued infliction of distress on audiences is due to the utter cheapness the movies can be crafted for, using the least capable talent behind the screen, who elicit less than stellar performances in front of the camera.

It won't ever be enough for video game junkies as many of them go to these films expecting to relive the computer gaming experience that made them fans of the source material. However, even my closest friends, with whom I see most of the worst movies I watch each year, weren't the least bit impressed with the film...and these are the same folk that love movies I dislike like such as recent flicks 300, Sin City and Hancock. That they found little to enjoy in this sometimes slick, seldom entertaining movie all but confirms my own thoughts on the film.

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