Directed by: John Moore
Premise: An adaptation of the video game. A hardboiled police detective (Mark Wahlberg) searches for the killer of his wife and child years after the case has gone cold when new clues linking the killer to a pharmaceutical company show up.
What Works: Some of the action scenes work well enough and some of the visuals are very striking. Mark Wahlberg is well cast in the role and manages to fit in very well.
What Doesn’t: Max Payne plods along, fumbling for what exactly it is attempting to do. It’s perfectly fine and rather necessary to mix and match elements of different genres but Max Payne cannot synthesize these elements together and the picture ends up with random elements that don’t make any sense. At first, the picture starts out as a supernatural thriller but then it reveals that all of this was the product of drug induced hallucinations. That might have worked if the film had taken care to execute those scenes in such a way that suggests a subjective point of view. But the film does not do that and so what Max Payne is left with are visuals in the background that have no relevance to what is going on in the foreground. The story follows a plot line similar to the Marv storyline in Sin City or the conspiracy of The Fugitive but the filmmakers apparently were just not that interested in detective work and opt for Max Payne breaking down doors and hitting people with the butt of his gun until they talk. It’s lazy writing that kills the mystery and makes every scene predictable. Although some of the shootouts and stunts are shot well, there is nothing here that hasn’t been seen in a million other renegade-cop and vigilante stories from Death Wish to Lethal Weapon. The ending is really disappointing, accomplishing nothing and ending on a cliché and boring finale.
Bottom Line: Max Payne is just another bad video game adaptation. There is potential here; the cast is right and there is a nugget of a good idea but the film is short circuited by its own lack of focus.
Episode: #214 (November 16, 2008)