Coming together to solve a series of murders in New York City are a DEA agent Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) whose wife and baby daughter were slain as part of a conspiracy and an assassin, Mona Sax (Mila Kunis) out to avenge her sister's death. They are hunted by the police, the mob, and a ruthless corporation.
Review by Louise Keller:
There are guns blazing, mysterious winged creatures, a symbolic tattoo, an elusive blue elixir, an unresolved murder and big stunts, yet Max Payne is surprisingly lacklustre. Based on a video game, there's plenty happening on screen, but it's hard to feel much for any of the characters, even Mark Wahlberg's brooding Max, who is obsessed to avenge the senseless murder of his wife and child. The storytelling is secondary to the action with adverse results as director John Moore battles to create a credible world couched between reality and fantasy. To me, the most striking element is the production design in which perpetual snow falls, gusts whirl over a snowy backdrop and torrential rain teems down soaking volatile characters at vulnerable moments.
When we first meet Wahlberg's Max, he is freefalling in an ocean filled with dead bodies. In voice over, we hear that it is not heaven, in which he believes, but pain, fear and death. We quickly understand the world in which Max lives: one that involves loneliness, regret and hate. We watch in superficial fascination as Natasha (the stunningly beautiful Olga Kurylenko) tries to seduce Max, wearing a flimsy, ultra short red silk dress with thigh-high black boots, but he is only interested in her tattoo. Then there's Natasha's hard-nosed sister Mona (Mila Kunis, unrecognisable from her likeable character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Chris O'Donnell as a drug company executive and Beau Bridges as BB Hensley, head of security. Frankly it's hard to believe any of them. Amaury Nolasco however, is terrifying as Jack Lupino, whose handsome features are decorated by two large facial tattoos and whose demons come alive all too often.
There's no shortage of firepower (Max shoots everyone in sight) and even if you ignore some of the plot's unanswered questions, we are left with a cavalcade of bullets, noise and chaos. The sum of the parts is more impressive than the whole and more's the pity.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Unquestionably energetic and visually stimulating, Max Payne is non stop action, with everything made in the equivalent of writing in capital letters. You can't miss the revenge mission, nor the profound hurt suffered by Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) on the loss of his pretty wife and baby girl, nor the evil conspirators who've developed a drug for soldiers that only works a little bit and sends everyone else mad. It's this drug that is the cause of all the evil and the reason why the corporation that developed it wants to kill the story - and anyone who knows about it. But no spoilers here ....
Mark Wahlberg gives it all he's got and Olga Kurylenko gives a glimpse of what to expect from her in Quantum of Solace as the 'Bond girl', all long legs and bedroom eyes and slinky hair. Mila Kunis, playing her sister, gets limited screen time as an action heroine, while Beau Bridges makes a good fist of the ex-cop whose friendship with Max Payne is pivotal to the plot. All the supports are fine and the stunts are rigorous, but after about 30 minutes the interest wanes. Loud and often badly sound mixed so dialogue is muffled, the film starts to wear us down with its relentless gunfights in which only the good guys can hit a target.
I've said before that I never trust a film in which the protagonists have conversations or even arguments in the pouring rain - without umbrellas. In this film that happens more than once. It suggests that rain is used merely as an effect - like flickering lighting, which I also scorn as cheap cinematic trickery.
I suspect there is a legion of fans who will get a lot more out of Max Payne than me, and they'll no doubt sigh with relief at the ending. I just sighed.
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MAX PAYNE (M)
CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Chris O'Donnell, Donal Logue, Amaury Nolasco, Kate Burton, Olga Kurylenko
PRODUCER: John Moore, Julie Yorn, Scott Faye
DIRECTOR: John Moore
SCRIPT: Beau Thorne (video game by Sam Lake)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jonathan Sela
EDITOR: Dan Zimmerman
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Daniel T. Dorrance
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 16, 2008