Payneful

by Alan Rapp on October 17, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Max Payne
  • IMDB: link

“I don’t believe in heaven.”

Sometimes I think the best job in the world would be as a writer for video games.  The plots don’t have to make sense, you don’t have to worry about logic or character development and the story is always a distant third to gameplay and effects.  If this is true then the hardest job around just might be the guy who has to take the nonsensical storyline of a video game and attempt to turn it into a feature film.  The result, more often than not, is something like Max Payne

The film is based on the Max Payne video game, so stay with me as I attempt to explain the plot.

Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is a police detective assigned as a file clerk to the Cold Case room in the bowels of the department.  Mostly Max looks angry/constipated as he sits at his desk going over files and in his spare time tries to solve the murder of his wife (Marianthi Evans) and daughter.

A new lead kills his former partner (Donal Logue) and a young woman who Max was pumping for information (Olga Kurylenko), who it turns out is the sister of a nefarious assassin (Mila Kunis).  Max is framed for both murders and goes on the run to discover the truth.

His quest will take him on a byzantine journey through his wife’s former job, an old friend of his father’s (Beau Bridges), and a secret drug called Valkyr.

The look of the film is quite good and the production value is high.  The snowfall, use of shadow, and the effects of the Valyries themselves are all well done.  It seems no expense was spared into making this look like a good movie; too bad nobody spent some cash on the story.

The film is mired in a plot which makes little to no sense.  The drug itself creates either A) super soldiers who feel no pain or B) delusional junkies who are attacked by harpy looking Valkyries.  The film never decides whether the Valkyries are real or hallucination.  If they are real where do they come from, and if they are simply figments why does everyone who takes the drug see the exact same thing?  And how are tattoos (don’t ask) supposed to stop them?

The plot borrows loosely from Norse mythology in a way that makes me believe somebody was writing a cop/drug movie and his kid brought home a beginner’s book on the subject which he only briefly skimmed and added to the mix.  The result is ridiculous at best (as in the tattoo artist who gives us a brief history lesson on the subject) and mind-numbingly retarded at worst (as in the name for the baddies secret base).

Speaking of ridiculous, there’s also the insanely bad casting decision of Mila Kunis as an assassin.  I like Kunis, who was quite good in Finding Sarah Marshall (read the DVD review), but no matter how much she scowls it was impossible for me to take her seriously as a bad ass chick who could actually kill anyone.  And I’m supposed to buy she runs an entire organization with nothing but her looks and a few guns?  Yes she’s got a great ass but that’s not all you need to play an assassin.

There’s also a problem with Payne’s innocence.  The cops, led by an Internal Affairs agent (Ludacris), are a little too quick to buy his guilt, and even quicker to believe his innocence later, without much evidence.  It doesn’t help that the plot calls for Payne to consistently make worse and worse decisions which only serve to feed the plot’s need to make him look guilty.

Save me from movies based off video games.  The film is a mess.  It may be a step up from complete disasters like Doom (read that review), but so is a sharp kick to the groin.  If you have to see it I’d recommend waiting for DVD and watching it with the sound off, creating you own plot to go with the impressive look of the film.  You could hardly do worse.

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