There are very few words to describe my disappointment after witnessing the debacle that is Max Payne. I had such high anticipation for this film, and yet I have come away so utterly dissatisfied with what was presented to me. How could a film that is based on such an innovative and enjoyable game be so utterly boring and cliché? The previews of the film truly led me to believe that this was finally going to be a video game adaptation that was going to work. Wow, was I ever wrong.
Max Payne is a film based on the 2001 video game of the same name, and follows Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) as he makes his way through the decadence and seediness of a cold and heartless city in search of the killer who took his wife and child from him. You see, Max has already killed two of the three perpetrators but cannot fully awake from his misery induced silence until he finds the final assassin. He is literally a member of the walking dead because he has yet to fulfill his desire of avenging his family.
Along this dark and disturbed journey, Max crosses paths with many hardened and mysterious characters that have their own set of motivations. One of these individuals is Mona Sax (Mila Kunis), a character so vividly imagined in the video game, but yet is a casualty of a weak performance by Kunis and horrible character development by the screenwriters. Mona Sax is a sexy and vivacious woman but Kunis fails to project the needed ‘oomph’ to truly define her as a strong and independent female. The character comes off more as a screenplay device rather than an essential ingredient for this film.
In all honesty, I loved the video game. It was a highly stylized piece of escapism with wonderful voice over acting, especially by James McCaffrey who voiced Max Payne. McCaffrey delivered a gruff and hardened performance and truly captured the essence of what made Payne tick. Mark Wahlberg, on the other hand, is cold and silent accompanied by an expressionless mug throughout the course of the film. Wahlberg does an adequate job but never truly captures the loneliness and despair needed to define the protagonist of this story. The harsh and unrelenting voice provided by McCaffrey is sorely lacking in Wahlberg’s performance.
One aspect that this film does have going for it however is a wonderful production design. The film is a visual feast for the eyes and truly adds to the idea that this is a cold and unrelenting world without hope or the possibility of redemption.
However, this is the only positive thing that is worth mentioning about Max Payne.To put it simply, I truly believe that the reason why this film is such a major disappointment is because it fails to capture the essence of what made the game so special in the first place. The atmosphere is appropriately dystopian (very Film Noir like), but the story is so predictable and shallow and at times the pacing is very sluggish. Even in scenes meant to be exhilarating, including a number of slow motion sequences trying so desperately to be cool, come off as mere self indulgent fetishes by director John Moore.
A film of this calibre should be pulsating with an energetic exuberance rather than causing the reviewer of this piece to sporadically check his wristwatch to determine when the film may be over.
To be honest, the story is illogical and mind numbingly dumb (characters miraculously appear out of nowhere even though it would be impossible for them to do so). The main culprit of the film, which I will not divulge here, is so obvious from the get go that it makes one wonder how an audience member can figure it all out so quickly but yet Payne remains in the dark about it all. I guess if he did then the film would have been over in the first five minutes….I wish it had been.