Monday, 1 March 2010

Max Payne

MAX PAYNE (2008)

Directed by: John Moore
Screenplay: Beau Thorne
Starring: Mark Whalberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Chris O’Donnell, Chris Bridges

Another video game to movie adaptation, Max Payne the game featured mucho bullet time action and shootouts making it perfect material for a big screen version. Well, sort of. First off, I’ve never played the game on which this movie is based so really can’t compare as to whether it is a faithful adaptation (word is: it isn’t). It doesn’t feature much bullet time or slow motion and the film takes some time to get to all the gun carnage but when it does, it’s certainly bullet riddled and kinetically staged. So, die hard fans of the game are no doubt disappointed with this movie adaptation (not least with all the drug induced hallucinations of flying demons that have been added here: which are actually pretty cool) but as a piece of slick, comic booked vibed, pulpy action, Max Payne isn’t half as bad as you will no doubt have heard or read on many other like minded blogs and forums.

Sure it 's as derivative as hell: hard as nails cop, goes gunning for those who killed his wife and kid which all has something to with the aforementioned drug, which is causing people to do all kinds of crazy things thanks to those demon hallucinations. It’s obvious who the bad guy is from the get go and everything is perhaps a little too po-faced and serious for its own good. Especially for a film that exists in a heightened comic book/video game reality. But, if you can get past all preconceptions and obsessive fan boy hatred, Max Payne delivers some cool noir tinged action. Slick as hell thanks to its Hollywood budget and John (Behind Enemy Lines) Moore’s glossy direction, the film looks great and inhabits a groovy rain soaked, noir world. In fact, the film is quite dark in its portrayal of violence, nasty characters and that entire hallucinatory drug taking thing. The winged demons have come under a lot of criticism but actually add to the groovy Goth noir the film has.

For a film that is sold on all its gun toting action and intricate gunplay, Max Payne the movie takes its time getting to it. Not that its a totally bad thing but it will frustrate many a viewer going into the film expecting it from the get go. Apart from one brief shootout near the beginning things don’t really kick off until the last third when the guns certainly do come out blazing. And its great stuff as well, despite not living up to the bullet time, slow-mo legacy of the game. But Moore knows how to do action and the gunplay, while not as intricate or sustained as say a John Woo flick, is kinetically charged, bullet riddled and squib-tastic. A running battle in an office block with a swat team and a shootout in an underground garage standout and there is some violently impactfull shotgun action too: all framed, shot and cut so we can appreciate what is going on. In fact, Moore wisely stays clear of the fashionable editing overkill meaning the action scenes have an old school feel to them and are all the more enjoyable. There just should have been more of them.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is underused, especially the lovely Mila Kunis, but its always great to see Beau Bridges chewing up the screen. Not the abomination its reputation has, Max Payne (if you are a less than demanding viewer: I mean this ain’t meant to be The Departed!) is an enjoyable glossy, action ride with some fantastic bullet riddled gunplay. I’m no doubt in the minority with this one. But then again, I usually am.

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