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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Max Payne (2008)

My notes on Max Payne (2008)

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.

Discussion

One thought on “Film review – Max Payne (2008)

  1. Phil Newton
    What is wrong with Olga Kurykenko, is there something she’s not telling us? First Agent 47 spurned her advances in Hitman, then it was Bond in Quantum of Solace, and now it’s Max Payne’s turn… the poor girl must be getting a complex if she can’t get laid looking that hot.

    Anne Billson
    And she gets her bite on with Elijah Wood in Paris je t’aime… Which can’t be right.

    Kim Newman
    In Le Serpent, where she plays a hooker, she dupes businessmen into getting drugged and photographed with her as if they were having sex when actually they aren’t. As I said, she’s seriously getting typecast.

    Adam Smith
    It’s not nice to have a go at Chris O’Connell. He was quite good in Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe.

    Damon Wise
    I can’t believe you’ve seen Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe. I can’t believe *anybody* has seen Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe.

    Kim Newman
    My friend Stephen Bissette once spent a year researching a book about cannibal movies, and subjected his wife to a non-stop barrage of Italian gut-munching zombie movies. After months of this, she insisted he take her out to see a chick flick … not knowing what the title refers to, they went to Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe …

    Damon Wise
    And what does it refer to…?

    Kim Newman
    … the abusive ex-husband whose body no one ever finds because he’s been eaten.

    Damon Wise
    *Spoiler alert!*

    Adam Smith
    And Chris O’Donnell gets run over by a train and killed.

    Kim Newman
    We’re making it sound like a film Damo wants to see … even though it’s a syrupy talky chick flick full of smug old ladies and not-even-properly lesbian flashbacks and characters with annoying names like Idgie …

    Damon Wise
    I have never felt so conflicted…

    Anne Billson
    I like the bit where “office security” turns out to be dozen heavies shooting up everything in sight (including the office) with machine-guns. Surely not economically viable.
    Also, what DID happen to the baby? Also, how on earth does Chris O’Donnell manage to be even more boring in scumbag character roles than he was as a leading man?

    Damon Wise
    Wow, I thought that was FGT for a second!

    Anne Billson
    Indeed, many films would benefit from being blended like that. I have fond memories of a press screening where Innocent Lies (deadly dull Agatha Christie-esque 1930s whodunnit) suddenly cut to a carful of heavy-looking Black Panthers listening to funk music because the projectionist had got the reels muddled with those from a Mario Van Peebles film.

    Posted by kimnewman | February 17, 2022, 9:40 am

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