Film Reviews

Max Payne John Moore

Rating - 6/10

From all accounts, this was supposed to be it. Our day of vindication. The day that video game adaptations would be viewed as legitimate cinema, or barring that, at least on par with their comic book/graphic novel cousins.

Wisely, this film has not been marketed as a video game adaptation. And why should it be? The narrative of Max Payne stands up on its own, and the visuals in the trailer speak for themselves. A "based on the game" credit on the front-end could only hurt things.

All they had to do was not mess with the story.


Max Payne, for those not in the know, is one of Rockstar Games' pre-Grand Theft Auto hits about a grizzled detective who discovers the truth behind the death of his wife and child may be more sinister than it seems. Boilerplate stuff at first glance perhaps, but the heavy handed film noir style of the game's writing combined with the stylistic graphic novel interludes between levels made you feel like you truly were following this man into the night as he discovered what lied underneath not just the city's filthy underbelly, but within his own wrecked soul.

The arc of Max across the game (and especially across the two games taken as a whole) is the stuff of cinema legend, touching on themes of love, tragic loss, despair of the soul, and finally, rebirth through redemption and epic vengeance.

Max Payne the movie, on the other hand, is about Marky Mark chewing up some admittedly awesome looking scenery. The trailers promised Sin City, which wasn't a bad way to go - it led to a  #1 finish in its opening weekend. And the visuals back this comparison up with ease. But the story taps into nothing that made the game a great candidate for a film adaptation in the first place. Director John Moore paid so much attention to mis en scene that he didn't bother to actually direct the performances of his actors. To be sure, a lot of the blame must rest with the casting director - Mila Kunis as a cold, sultry assassin? Really? Really really? Come on, people: At least Angelina Jolie looked the part of Lara Croft.

Like in Choke, the filmmakers change bits and pieces of the story in such a way that the end result feels like it is an adaptation in name only. Only Amaury Nolasco as psychotic enforcer Jack Lupino seems to be relishing his part in this production, attempting to bring out something memorable. Even Wahlberg, who matches Max's in-game model to a scary degree, turns in a performance that is basically the same tough guy act he's now made a career from, except here he's brooding in a leather trenchcoat.

Yes, Virginia: Once again, Hollywood has managed to turn one of gaming's most fleshed out characters into a goddamned Matrix retread. If you've been holding out for an awesome and accurate video game adaptation that the general public would get behind, it's time to wake up, because the dream is dead.