Max Payne begins with detective Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) musing, “I believe in pain.” Me too, especially after enduring this brainless film based on a video game based on film noir and The Matrix’s bullet-time effects, a photocopy-of-a-photocopy lineage that still only goes halfway toward explaining the ludicrousness of its every millisecond. Payne is an exaggerated hardboiled gumshoe consumed with searching for the man who killed his wife and baby three years earlier, an obsession that leads him to shadowy criminals, a big, bad pharmaceutical company, and drugs that make select soldiers invincible and drive the rest batshit-insane from hallucinations of winged angels and demons. With its hyper-stylized noir tropes and gray-black palette (streaked with fluttering snow and flashes of red) pilfered from Sin City, and its supernatural religious imagery pinched from Constantine, the film is devoid of novel life. Its meticulously composed cinematography—in which the camera regularly circles Payne’s cartoonishly stern, stationary face, and a slow-motion shot of the hero bending over backward to shoot a villain lasts for a hilarious eternity—proves almost as inert as its star’s grimacing tough-guy routine. The film takes place in a New York City where no one has ever heard of a light switch, and yet the cruel irony is that John Moore’s derivative demo-reel direction and his cast’s less-than-one-dimensional performances remain glaringly visible throughout, assailing the screen with aggressive inanity. People insist on holding conversations in the pouring rain, wing-shaped tattoos interject some Norse mythology into the proceedings (good thing that tattoo artist had his book about Valkyries lying around the parlor!), and Chris O’Donnell is enlisted to play a supporting part, all thoroughly misbegotten creative decisions that—along with dialogue that makes one crave a hammer to the eardrums—ultimately drive this action saga into unintentionally self-parodic territory only a seven-year-old boy could reasonably stomach.
- John Moore
- Beau Thorne
- Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Chris O'Donnell, Donal Logue, Amaury Nolasco
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