Video Game Adaptations: Max Payne
Why do I keep doing this to myself. I’ve now seen loads of these video game adaptation and even the very best of them are astonishingly mediocre. Most of them, however, flirt with outright incompetence and unsurprisingly Max Payne is no exception. I have to say up front that I’ve never played the games, but if they’re anything at all like this dismal film then, frankly, I won’t be touching them with a bargepole.
Max Payne is a filing clerk. Or at least I think he is. He used to be (emphasis on “used to”) a top flight homicide detective, but he’s now moving cold cases from filing cabinet A to filing cabinet B. He’s a glum bugger, but to be fair he’s got every right to be considering his missus and infant child were brutally murdered a few years ago. Max is frantically trying to solve the case, but has hit a dead end. Pursuing a flimsy lead he hooks up with Ukrainian prostitute Natasha (Olga Kurylenko), but she manages to upset him so he throws her out, to be murdered by evil flying demon things in the street. Next thing you know, Max is suspect number one and he’s got to battle the cops, evil pharmaceutical company security and lunatic hopped up ex-servicemen to get to the truth and clear his name. His only accomplice in this is Mila Kunis’ Mona Sax, a badass Ukrainian hitwoman. Or something like that anyway.
This is a fundamentally terrible film. To begin with, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Beau Bridges is running this scam selling a highly experimental drug on the streets- except the drug, Valkyrie, induces hideous hallucinations that bring hell on Earth and torment you with big demon type thingies that are meant to be Valkyries, except as conceived of by someone without even a beginners knowledge of Norse mythology. If anything, actually they look closer to harpies, which are Greek. Evil Lupino, Amaury Nolasco, is hopped out of his skull on the drug practically 24/7, and completely loopy, but there’s no reason for him to be in the film at all- when Bridges explains that it was easy to put the drug on the street and find a use for Lupino you haven’t got a clue what he’s talking about. Drugs are meant to be fun, and this obviously isn’t, and all Lupino does is kill random people who aren’t even connected to Max. Which brings me on to the next problem: I can’t for the life of me find one good reason for Max’s wife to have been killed. It doesn’t make sense. If it was done for the money to be gained from selling this terrible drug, then how? why did her death help achieve that goal? However, if it wasn’t done for that reason then there’s no purpose at all for her to be offed, other than to provide a reason for Max to be in filing, and certainly no reason to off the baby. There’s, actually, an easy fix to this: the film would work just as well, if not better, if the wife and daughter were written out, and Max was a single homicide Detective banging Kurylenko- her death would therefore provide the catalyst for the film, which, arguably, it is anyway.
Secondly, the acting in this is dreadful. Kunis and Kurylenko put in the best performances, but Bridges, Ludicris and Nolasco are uniformly dreadful. Worst of the lot, however, is Wahlberg. He can act when he puts his mind to it (witness Fear, Boogie Nights or The Departed), but when he’s not on song he’s a dreadful actor. As Max Payne, he’s got precisely one facial expression: The Scowl. Picked up hot babe? Scowl. Interrogating suspect? Scowl. High on Drugs? Scowl. Taking a dump? Scowl. It’s an utterly crap performance; I’m sure he’s meant to be gritty or somesuch, but he just looks like a man in dire need of a blow job.
Which brings me round to the drugs themselves and notably the drug “effects”. They’re crap: flitting shadows, half formed black demon women etc. They’re also beyond clichéd with Max’s hallucination seeing the ceiling strip away to be replaced with a hackneyed flaming hell effect. Thinking about this, I don’t know but I will take a large bet that taking drugs is integral to the game, because there’s absolutely no reason at all for Max to pop the lid of the vial and chug it down.
Now for the direction. Max Payne was directed by one John Moore, who has 6 films to his name, all of which are crap and one in particular, The Omen remake, should result in a lifetime ban away from the camera. I don’t know how he got this gig, because he hasn’t even got an idea how to place the camera. There’s a scene early on where Max interrogates some junkies where the scene is partially obscured by the back of Wahlberg’s head. What the fuck? This is basic stuff- if you’ve blocked the screen then the audience can’t see what the fuck is going on. To his and the cinematographer’s credit, for the most part this is a seriously good-looking film, all steely grays and grainy atmosphere, but it’s simply not enough when coupled to this gross incompetence.
Finally, seeing as I’ve savaged this, the real problem (above all of the other flaws already mentioned) with this as a film is that it is immensely dull. Aside from being confusing, most of the time the film just follows Max around while he scowls at various people in various locations. This does not make entertaining cinema. Furthermore, Max Payne was billed as an action film and I can’t actually think of that much action/ gunplay in it. When there is an action scene, it seems to be over with in a second, but there’s plenty of time to watch Max staring out of the window at a shadow Valkyrie. I can think of a million other things I would rather do than watch this film again, even down to really boring things like watching Prince “looks-are-fading” marry frantically social-climbing plankton girl.
Overall, Max Payne is a crap film. It’s a dull and pointless waste of time. In fact, were I another reviewer on this site, then I’d describe it as entirely worthless, and he’d be right. Nevertheless, I’m not going to either give it a Uwe or an Orangutan of Doom. It is pretty enough to just duck that, although for the life of me I can’t think of a single reason to watch it. If you’re a fan of the game, then I can’t believe that a soulless and dull adaptation is what you would want, and if you aren’t a fan of the game, then there’s no point at all to inflicting a couple of hours of excruciating boredom on yourself. Max Payne is a crap film, and can have half a chang, purely for how good looking it is. Other than that? Fuck this noise.
Until next time,