It is probably silly starting the movie review by stating that I played only Max Payne 2 and I don’t remember a single piece of the story from the game. However, I remember seeing Max Payne year of its premiere and I think I was pretty angry and scathed the movie as complete rubbish. While rewatching the movie I was pleasantly surprised that it isn’t that bad after all. Well, it is bad, but not as bad as I remembered.
Maxy Payne lost his wife and kid to the violent attack of unknown attackers. It was probably just robbery went wrong, but there is something fishy about the whole ordeal. Max transfers himself to cold cases and drowns all his time and himself in the case of his family attack. The movie starts very promisingly, heavy atmosphere and direct inspiration from noir style are apparent. Lighting, angles used, falling snow, every single piece, every single scene looks like carefully laid out painting.
What made noir movies (Big Sleep, Maltese Falcon, Sunset Boulevard) exceptional was the rich plot, the story that was unpredictable and this is unfortunately where Max Payne comes short. All the cards are shown pretty soon and even all the hidden aces are very predictable so an experienced movie fan is not surprised by the generic outcome. While the visual fidelity of the movie is planned very carefully and creates an amazing tower of beauty, the story is built like a house of cards that is bound to crumble with each passing minute.
The semi-mythical inspiration by Norse mythology is too obvious (Rag na rock club, Valkyra drug etc.). The tattoo that is the big breaking point in the investigation is so obvious that it is incomprehensible that the Max and his partner didn’t realize it much sooner. There is like 100 people with that tattoo and even the stupid pharma company, producer of the drug has part of it in its logo. Seriously? Who is who in the world on the good and bad side is also done in a very predictable way and there is just nothing that could surprise you. It’s like the ticking of the mandatory list by both writer and director. And it is a shame, Mark Wahlberg is excellent choice to play Max Payne and I believe if he was given something more to work with it would be a movie to remember.
What did surprise me though was the amount of the action scenes. There are only two or three action scenes. One little scene with shooting inside a bathroom where Max tries to extort a criminal is shot in birds eye view and Max shoots door hinges from each of the cubicles is a pleasure to watch. The action scenes also work as an homage to the bullet time game pushed so prominently. I must not agree with most people complaining that as Max Payne game is the action game with tons of shootouts, so the movie must be an action movie with even more shoot-outs. It is revenge flick and revenge flick can be done without killing 524 thugs and other criminal personae, not including random bystanders. No reason to copycat everything, right?
Last but not least, I must mention one thing that I found kind of disturbing. Towards the end of the movie Max in order to survive he has to consume a certain amount of drug that turns abusers into killing machines. The main hero technically turns into a junkie who sprays bullets all around himself. Really, so the victory is achieved by becoming the thing that he hates so much.
So overall, we have a movie that shows great promise with exceptional cinematography, I dare to say bizarre attention to building the scene that then falls flat because it is completely without soul and heart.