To say I was stunned, shocked and dumbfounded after my viewing of Max Payne would be a bit harsh. I was, however, certainly disappointed in what I saw. No, not because another popular video game had become a casualty of a poor Hollywood interpretation, but because, for all intents and purposes, it didn’t remotely look like anyone involved in the picture even tried to make the film a successful venture.
First time screenwriter Beau Thorne was clearly out of sorts when he wrote the storyline. He put together what may be the most convoluted revenge story ever put to paper. Thorne had me, at least initially, on board with the loner cop, Payne (Mark Wahlberg), still consumed by his desire for revenge against those who murdered his wife and baby daughter concept. But when inexplicably he mixed in unneeded Russian gangsters and nonsensical winged valkyries into the plot with big business greed, he soon lost me (even though I knew why at least one of those aspects was added). The Russians were introduced so Olga Kurylenko and Mila Kunis could steam up the screen for the men in the audience. Olga plays Natasha, a woman sent in to seduce Max. How she can’t, while barely wearing a slinky red silk dress, is beyond me, as she may be the hottest prospect in Tinseltown right now. Mila takes on the role of Mona Sax, an assassin of sorts, who befriends Max and helps him with is quest. As for the valkyries, I suspect they’re in place just so Thorne’s friends in the arts/effects department could have something to do. They look cool, but actually become distracting — they’re overused and show up at all the wrong times.
Further tossed into the primordial stew are mostly uninspiring roles played by Beau Bridges, Ludacris and Chris O’Donnell. Out of the bunch, only Ludacris (working under his real name Chris Bridges) showed up to work as an Internal Affairs officer investigating Payne’s involvement with a spate of recent murders. This doesn’t mean he was anything special; it just goes to show how poor of a performance the other, more experienced actors put forth. Same goes for Wahlberg. He spends all of his screen time furrowing his brow and doing little else (I’m omitting shotgun practice as an activity). There was a moment when, after learning who was responsible for his family’s death, he tried to appear mournful and contemplative but he ended up looking like he was suffering from a major bout of constipation. And while it is the actors’ responsibility to breathe life into their characters, some of the fault lies with director too.
The man at the helm of Max Payne was John Moore, a man with a spotty track record directing films. Instead of paying attention to the actual meat of the film, he fell into the trap of trying to use excessive effects to cover up the fact there is no story driving the film. As I already mentioned, he tosses around CGI valkyries every chance he gets — even when unwarranted. There is also a ton of explosions and gunfire — as expected — some captured exceptionally well, while other scenes were bizarrely shot (I’ve been told it was his attempt to capture the “bullet time” phenomenon the video game was heralded over).
In short, Max Payne is heavy on glitz and light on substance. I guess fans of the game will be happy to see their “hero” brought to life but for most others, including myself, this was a lackluster attempt at an action flick.