[Masthead] Mostly Cloudy and Breezy ~ 23°F  
Feels like: 7°F
Tuesday, Mar. 3, 2015

Pilot at the Movies

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

'Max Payne': name says it all

Here's the one thing that makes "Max Payne" comparatively painless: Unlike most movies based on video games - it doesn't try to replicate the sensation of playing. It doesn't place you in the middle of their nausea-inducing world.

Instead, "Max Payne" is just a straight-up PG-13 action picture, and a rather bombastic, familiar one at that.

Director John Moore ("Behind Enemy Lines") rips off John Woo with endless, hyperstylized shootouts, all in slow motion with shattered glass showering everything in a million little pieces. All that's missing are the strategically placed doves.

That's not all that's coming down, though: It seems to rain or snow constantly in the movie's darkly gothic vision of New York, an attempt at emulating classic noir style. After a while it all feels dreary and smothering. Then again, "Max Payne" the video game was inspired by film noir, and has now, in turn, inspired a movie of its own. It's so meta.

Mark Wahlberg looks like he's in perpetual agony as the title character, an NYPD detective still searching for the killers of his wife and infant son years later. The return to action isn't a horrible fit for Wahlberg, but after his Oscar-nominated performance in "The Departed" and his behind-the-scenes work with the hugely successful "Entourage," he doesn't need this kind of dopey gig anymore.

"I don't believe in heaven," Max says in the opening voiceover as he's about to drown in an icy river. "I believe in pain. I believe in fear. I believe in death." He doesn't exactly lighten up - or develop much as a character - from there.

Max teams up with Russian mob assassin Mona Sax (Mila Kunis), whose sister (new Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko) was killed in a way that may tie her to Max's family. Kunis is sexy with her luxurious, dark hair and knee-high black boots, but it's impossible to take her seriously as a machine gun-toting enforcer. When she screams at Max in a dark alleyway, "Kneel the (expletive) down!" it sounds like her "Family Guy" character, Meg, yelling at younger brother Chris for embarrassing her at the mall.

Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Beau Bridges are woefully underused. Somewhere amid the noise and the homicidal valkyries - oh yes, "Max Payne" has those, too - there may be a just-say-no-to-drugs or an anti-war message. It's hard to tell, or care as you just wait for this game to be over.

* Our Score: One and a half stars out of five