Max Payne is a thoroughly ordinary, solemn and dumb action movie based on a computer game, which offers a lot of slo-mo shoot-outs, CGI fantasy elements tipped into the cop shop from Constantine, a convoluted but predictable conspiracy, Spirit-look snowy and dark New York-as-Gotham City settings, disposable hordes of blown-away baddies and Mark Wahlberg discharging as many sexy guns as possible while playing soul-deadening grief as if it were severe constipation. Supercop Max, traumatised by the still-unsolved murder of his gorgeous wife (Marianthi Evans) and baby, has transferred to the cold case department purely so he can spend his off-hours tracking down leads to the unidentified scumbag who got away after strangling Mrs P, leaving distinctively wing-tattooed minions behind to be shot by the hero. Obviously, Max’s brain is completely blasted by the shock since everyone in the audience will know the Aesir pharmaceuticals company where the late Mrs Max worked is EVIL from the art direction of their offices. You can also spot the person ultimately behind the murders from his introductory plausible nice guy scene. Max notes more of those Valkyrie tattoos on minor crooks and a major hottie, and zooms in on Natasha (Olga Kurylenko) – whom he takes home to interrogate but kicks out of bed (come on, nobody’s that traumatised), only for her to turn up ripped to bits in a back alley after chugging a blue liquid drug that has given her visions of black-winged evil angels. Max’s old parner (Donal Logue) is on the case but also gets killed, which means he has to rely for advice and pull on his former mentor BB (Beau Bridges), now head of security at (uh-oh) Aesir.
In a low-wattage way, Max hooks up with Mona (Mila Kunis), Natasha’s harder-boiled and gun-toting sister, and they set out on a mutual mission to barge into gloomy, overly art-directed lairs and shoot up various cadres of bad bad guys. Lots of things get picturesquely shot, smashed and blown up, while the bullet time slo-mo goes a long way to trump The Matrix and eventually wears out its welcome by becoming overfamiliar. To add complexity if not depth, an Internal Affairs cop (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) weaves in and out between factions, a drugged-up machete-wielding super-soldier (Amaury Nolasco) hacks people to bits, and a middle-management asshole (Chris ‘He Used to be Robin Now He’s in Nothing Roles’ O’Donnell) sweats in the rain and snow as he worries that It’s All Going to Come Out. Naturally, it does and Max has to dose himself up on the high-risk blue steroid which makes folks see black devils even as it gives them Captain America super-powers to give him a boost after a plunge into the icy river, so he can charge back into the Aesir building with visual effects fiery hallucinations popping all around and shoot dead all the villains he hasn’t killed yet. His final heroic act is shooting an unarmed man to death, but the melodrama is so thick that few will complain. It’s more muscular than the similar Hitman, which also featured the limited gorgeousness of Kurylenko, an actress who – with lookalike roles in Le Serpent and Quantum of Solace – is frankly in danger of being seriously typecast as a battered Russian call girl with a pouting, violent streak. Director John Moore, a high-finish hack who has specialised in remakes (The Omen, Flight of the Phoenix), doesn’t bring a single new idea to the table, but originality wouldn’t really be appropriate in adapting a game that prides itself on being derivative; indeed, a post-modern reduction to absurdity is all you can expect from a film based on a game based on ideas from old films. It’s not clever, but it is highly-crafted. It doesn’t need to exist, but it does what it does.