There was a collective groan among the video game community when Max Payne was announced. While a fair video game, it was far from a title that screamed “make me into a movie!” On top of that, Mark Wahlberg was attached and nothing about the film felt like it would actually be good. Then the trailers hit and the tide changed a bit; undoubtedly the film would still suck, but perhaps it wouldn’t suck as hard as previous video game adaptations. This held true and the film, which, while undoubtedly stinky, managed to more than double its budget in box office sales worldwide…and that’s not even taking into account the business it’s going to do on home video.
Max Payne (Wahlberg) is a maverick cop with little regard for rules and nothing left to lose. Hell-bent on revenge, he’s determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his family, but his obsessive investigation takes him on a nightmarish journey where dark fantasy collides with stark reality. As the mystery deepens, Max is forced to battle enemies beyond the natural world…and face an unthinkable betrayal that will drive him to the edge of his own sanity.
So…how bad did this movie suck? Surprisingly…it didn’t suck all that much. Yeah, it’s nothing I’d ever watch again and I laughed at how bad the plot was, but remarkably the film didn’t even make me laugh at Wahlberg as I had thoughts of that SNL skit where he talked to animals. I wanted to laugh so much, but he did a genuinely good job in the film (for what it’s worth) and by the time the films credits rolled, I was more impressed with how much it wasn’t a steaming pile than anything. Again, I’d never watch it again, but I was fully prepared for something much, much worse.
I think what saved the movie was the bullet-time used in the film (Old hat? Yes. Still awesome? Yes.) as well as the cinematography of it all. Had the supernatural valkyrie element been actually…well, real the film may have well just been Constantine 2. But by keeping it all a drug hallucination (which went a bit far; really, the screaming got to be a bit much), the film managed to set itself. It was a bit of Sin City mixed with reality, which in of itself was an interesting mix up. Certainly the film was appealing visually, but the story really just left you wanting more.
The plots main pitfall was the big reveal. No matter what, Beau Bridges as the bad guy just doesn’t work. There’s nothing at all threatening about the man and I found that more unbelievable than some of the more ludicrous things in the film. Also what was the point of Olga Kurylenko’s role in here? She took off her top for a bit and then ended up dead. Mila Kunis as a Russian bad ass didn’t really fly either and…Chris O’Donnell? The hell happened to you, you aren’t even getting billing on the front of the packaging anymore (or…anywhere in the cast list on the back of the box). Oh and Ludicrous? Talk about a giant waste.
I really wish there was more to like about this film as it did have some redeeming qualities, but for the most part it was just mindless action (good) mixed with poor writing (bad) and a first half that had characters we barely knew getting killed for no good reason. The eventual culmination of the story just didn’t work and as awesome as it was to see people get blown away constantly, the eventual involvement of the police department and Ludicrous’s character simply made no sense. I’m still not clear if he actually supported Max Payne or if he was trying to go after him. Very confusing.
Speaking of people getting blown away, the unrated and rated version of the film is really quite different. It’s a Live Free or Die Hard scenario, where the majority of the sequences are the same, you just get more blood and f-bombs. There were a few additional scenes including a tattoo parlor scene where the artist in there had big volumes of Viking mythology sitting right next to his tattoo artwork book. Uhhh…ok, why? He could’ve just used a laptop and brought up a webpage about it, it would’ve seemed less out of place that way.
Overall Max Payne is a mindless film that will appease no one. Action fans will be moderately entertained and find it worth a Rental, but unless you like visually appealing and stylized violence, then you have no business watching this one.
It should come as no surprise that Fox really did a bad ass job on this release. Nice artwork accompanies the two-disc set (second disc is the digital copy) with inserts inside ranging from the digital copy code, firmware notices, Fox advertisements and evil a little white card with a security label affixed to it. For some reason you have to choose which version of the movie you want to watch before the previews even play, which is a bit odd, but once you finish the previews (or skip past them) you can safely get to the menu, which is simple and easy to navigate.
The film is encoded in a 1080p AVC image that, well…looks great. The visuals are really fantastic here, with plenty of cool little visual effects that look absolutely amazing in full HD and needless to say the constantly black visuals of the film remain deep and dark throughout. Detail is high and there isn’t anything about the film that looks out of place; solid grain levels and facial details are consistent throughout. Audio is a powerhouse DTS HD 5.1 mix that almost seems a bit too forceful at times, as the subwoofer became active even during the quietest of sequences. Having said that, the shoot-out sequences in the film are really quite fantastic sounding and will easily annoy those in lower levels of your dwelling.
Extras here are pretty basic and are all in standard definition. First up is a Audio Commentary by Director John Moore, Production Designer Daniel Dorrance and Visual Effects Supervisor Everett Burrell that is a fair listen, with plenty of talk about the look of the film and how little CGI was used in it. Next up is a two-part Making Of Part 1 (29:01), Part 2 (29:39) that shows director Moore quite jazzed about the production of the film (I guess by the time the commentary came time to record he was a bit more mellow) as well as plenty of cast and crew interviews.
Moving on we have BonusVIEW (53:24), available to watch during the film or separately in one lump. This is just more behind-the-scenes footage, but worth watching if you enjoyed the film to begin with. Finally there is a Michelle Payne (13:40, 1080i) graphic novel, which is the only high-definition extra on the entire set. Sadly there are no trailers for the film included, as the trailers for this film really show off the best things about it (and are set to a particularly enjoyable Marilyn Manson song; surprisingly the film is made up of absolutely no rock/metal music and is scored entirely by Marco Beltrami.
Overall a decent release, but, again…you either have to have a high tolerance for crap or just enjoy watching bad video game-to-movie adaptations. Worth a Rental at the very least for the visuals and surround mix, but past that there will be little to keep this in your collection.
Max Payne Unrated is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.