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Dustin Putman

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Max Payne  (2008)
1 Stars
Directed by John Moore.
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Chris O'Donnell, Donal Logue, Amaury Nolasco, Kate Burton, Olga Kurylenko, Rothaford Gray, Joel Gordon, Jamie Hector, Andrew Friedman, Marianthi Evans, Nelly Furtado.
2008 – 100 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 18, 2008.
After sitting through the hacksaw job that is "Max Payne," there isn't a trace of desire on my part to seek out the video game it's based on. As soulless as a rotting corpse and as idiotic as the summer day is long, this poor excuse for an action-thriller forgoes crucial elements, like a well thought-out plot and interesting or sympathetic characters, in exchange for a lot of snowy establishing shots. Director John Moore, who was last heard from when he raped the memory of the original "The Omen" with his awful 2006 remake, is at it again. This time (and no doubt with 20th Century Fox's unwise help), he has slapped together a cowardly PG-13-rated adaptation out of infamously violent and bloody source material. Kinda defeats the purpose, huh? Not only that, Moore can't even be bothered to include any actual action until roughly the halfway point. The majority of the film consists of people walking around and brooding.

The plot is laughably convoluted. Its twists, if one can call them that, are so transparent that there is no choice but to sit back and watch daft characters investigating a mystery that the viewer solved in the opening five minutes. Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is a New York City detective working cold case files who is determined to find out who killed his beloved wife and baby. When the body of slinky Natasha (Olga Kurylenko) is found dead on the street, Max's ID in her pocket, he becomes the prime suspect. Natasha's watchful sister Mona (Mila Kunis) thinks so, too, but after some convincing otherwise they team up to find the real culprit. As the deaths increase, each one sharing a wing tattoo that Max's wife also had, they move closer to the awful truth.

Toss in a blue liquid drug that seems to be all the rage, a crooked pharmaceutical company, hallucinations of attacking angels, and innumerable gun blasts that never seem to draw any blood, and "Max Payne" becomes one of the sillier movies of the year. Toss in slumber-worthy editing and a duller-than-paint protagonist and it becomes one of the most empty and boring, too. Watching it, the viewer doesn't care for a second about Max, or Mona, or their problems. The visuals are often stunning—cinematography and visual effects supervision work overtime to present a blustery, wintry metropolis of gothic appeal—but they mean nothing when the film they serve is as stagnant as this one.

Mark Wahlberg (2008's "The Happening") is credited at the end for having a personal assistant, a personal make-up and hair stylist, a personal trainer, a personal chef, and a personal driver. Tsk, tsk. All of that extra help, and he still couldn't be bothered to emote in front of the camera. Wahlberg wanders around lost as Max Payne, not looking particularly passionate or upset about the deaths of his wife and child. He does the bare minimum possible for an actor of his stature and esteem. As Mona, Mila Kunis is sharp in leather and bad-ass with a gun, but has nothing at all to do. Her character is useless to the story, her relationship with Max is barely worth a footnote, and hidden on the corner of her face is the desire to be back in Hawaii shooting "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" again.

Beau Bridges (2006's "Charlotte's Web"), looking exactly as he did twenty years ago, plays Max's confidante BB Hensley. With all the characters constantly uttering his first name, all that kept coming to mind were Butterfinger BBs. There wasn't anything else to think about. It needs to be said that Chris O'Donnell (2008's "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl") shows up for three or four scenes as Jason Colvin, a concerned worker at the aforementioned pharmaceutical company who may or may not be hiding something. With only five to ten minutes of screentime, O'Donnell is able to essay a character who is more enthralling and dramatically intense in a single frame than what Wahlberg achieves in the entirety of the running time.

"Max Payne" looks great, but that is all it has going for it. The ravishing theatrical trailers gave away every money shot and, worse yet, have marketed the film as something it is not. That the freaky angels all over the ads aren't even real, brought about as a side effect of drug-taking, is akin to if audiences had flocked to see "Jurassic Park" back in 1993 and discovered that the dinosaurs only appeared in a couple brief dream sequences. Listless and woefully unsatisfying, "Max Payne" follows its anticlimax up with a post-credits coda setting up a sequel. If there is any justice in the world, it will never reach fruition.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman