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Lost in Adaptation: Max Payne

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Lost in Adaptation: Max Payne

We’re introduced to Max Payne (Mark “Talks to Animals” Wahlberg) through disjointed jump-cuts, as he’s gasping for air in a frozen river and grumbling,“I don’t believe in life. I believe in pain. I believe in death.” Somewhere in the first 120-seconds, screenwriter Beau Thorne manages to completely and utterly deviate from a video game script by Sam Lake that followed traditional noir and graphic novel formats so completely (in structure and as storyboard) that to deviate from it seems insane.

Instead of sticking to the preferred plot device of “beginning at the end,” Max Payne the film opens 20 minutes from that point to give a false sense of impending doom. (Even in the original Playstation 2 game, we opened on Manhattan in the midst of a slowly dying blizzard as Max lies on his knees atop a skyscraper—drained, surrounded by a SWAT team, happy to be at an end.) Cut to a bold red-on-skyscraper text intoning “One Week Earlier,” lazily taken from Panic Room: we’re introduced to generic gray buildings and generic cops, the least of which being Max Payne, who works the Cold Case division—itself loosely referenced as the place where people who “have all done something” end up. Payne spends his evenings tracking obscure leads to addicts who hallucinate about winged creatures (Valkyries if you’re familiar with the game. If not, prepare to wait 45 minutes.)

Unsatisfied, Payne crashes his snitch’s drug party, briefly meets up with Natasha Sax (the rather sultry Olga Kurylenko, reliving her earlier Hitman role) before she’s brutally murdered by Jack Lupino (Amaury Nolasco phoning it in, unlike on Prison Break). Payne is framed; we find out he is merely trying to solve his own wife’s mysterious murder; Payne’s partner (Donal Logue!) may have a break in the case, but he soon dies, and guess who gets blamed?

For the first hour, Max Payne pretends it is a hard boiled detective story. It ignores the original game, which began with a subway station shoot-out, and only gets worse as Payne literally stumbles into gunfight after gunfight until he’s facing down para-military units. Subtle references are kept: every time a character is “hurt,” the screen flashes red; Lupino’s hide-out is “RagNaRock,” and the junkies still mutter insane phrases. Payne’s wife is an employee of the pharmaceutical corporation, whereas in the game she was a member of the District Attorney’s office investigating them; the game begins with Payne coming home to find his wife and child murdered, but the film lets this go for at least twenty minutes; Payne uses “painkillers” to restore his health, but the film has him using drugs to fully enable killing “the bad guys.”

Payne won’t do any good for previous video game films, as it has even less shoot-outs than other Wahlberg films like The Big Hit, which also try to play off the “shoot ’em up” franchise. It is odd that a game like “Max Payne” was altered so radically in the transition to the big screen: here, Payne isn’t a DEA agent, nor is there any potential for a sequel. They even manage to remove the mildly interesting aspects of Mona Sax (played here by Mila Kunis, who can even butcher her lines in Russian) such as her being the twin sister of the mob boss’ wife. That doesn’t exist in this version.

While perfectly acceptable for winning opening weekend box-office, this is a complete disappointment for those familiar with the original game. To those just joining the crime scene in progress, you won’t be that disappointed, but the original game and sequel are far better. Then again, say hi to your mother for us.

John Lichman is a freelance writer who contributes to The Reeler, Primetime A&E [print only] and anyone with cash. He works odd jobs to afford his vices, sleeps on couches and can drink Vadim Rizov under a table.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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