Sometimes casting is the most important element of your movie. Sometimes it’s not but in this case, it was, I think, crucial. They chose Mark Wahlberg to play Max Payne, a troubled police detective, haunted by the memories of his dead family… Not the smartest thing. Yeah, he looks like him, but he just does not have the capacity to revive this video game character. As a fan of the original video game, I can tell you that this movie is barely watchable. It is still watchable though, mostly because of phenomenal cinematography, special effects, and production values. And let’s not forget about that juicy neo-noir atmosphere.
Everyone apart from Wahlberg did a terrific job. Amaury Nolasco (Sucre from Prison Break) was excellent as the unhinged junkie Lupino along with deadly Mila Kunis and seductive Olga Kurylenko. Max Payne is ultimately a forgettable video game adaptation good for exactly one viewing. You can revisit it in a couple of years because I’m sure you’re not going to remember anything that happened in this movie. And all of this is despite the incredibly potent and familiar story presented in the video game franchise. Sin City or Wanted this is not. Although it does look like it.
I’m getting ahead of myself here but that’s what happens when you watch something you love turn into a mediocre commercial product. So, in the movie Max Payne, we will be following Max Payne, a New York detective looking for revenge after a horrific crime. A crime that still haunts him. Now, hear me out here, Wahlberg wasn’t actually that bad here. I mean, he wasn’t as bad as in The Happening (we’re okay, let me sing to you…). The man has a limited range and exactly three facial expressions and that’s it. On top of all of that, the script was below average.
I remember when Max Payne, the video game first came out and how I was simply blown away by the “bullet-time” feature. It would slow down time and allow you to shoot anyone who was stupid enough to be near you. The story was a neo-noir love affair and the whole thing screamed big screen. Max Payne, the movie, needed to be directed by someone who truly loved the game because if you’re looking for a quick buck, the movie will turn out pretty dull. Luckily, this adaptation is bearable.
This is all thanks to nostalgia, great special effects, and a decent atmosphere. The characters are pretty one-dimensional with the main story unfolding at a wobbly pace. This would be much more damaging if the atmosphere wasn’t this thick neo-noir fog that somehow obscures most of the mistakes. And I still don’t understand why they went for the PG-13 rating. Oh wait, I get it now, it’s the money. In the end, if you’re hungry for some visually appealing, easygoing neo-noir flick, Max Payne will do just fine. At least the guys who are going to try to do this again know what not to do and what to do.
And if you’re looking for similar and almost certainly better movies, do check out our Rabbit Reviews selection of Noir Movies. Although I would first recommend you take a look at The Punisher (both versions plus the sequel starring Ray Stevenson), Man on Fire, and Se7en. Of course, completely unhinged and very entertaining Give ’em Hell, Malone, is always a good choice. And thematically, Dredd starring Karl Urban and Lena Heady is quite similar but with a lot more action.
Director: John Moore
Writers: Beau Thorne, Sam Lake
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Amaury Nolasco, Olga Kurylenko
Fun Stuff: Mark Wahlberg never played the video game as he didn’t want to become addicted. And felt the script connected him to the story enough.