Max Payne isn’t about to win any
popularity contests. He’s a brooding, self-centered avenger with a badge,
obsessively working a single cold case – the murder of his wife and child. He
greets the friendly advances of a new co-worker with an icy stare. And he’s
lousy at parties.
One character puts it succinctly:
“Stay away from Max Payne.” It’s sound advice, considering that the specter of
death follows Payne as he patrols the windswept streets of New York, which bear
a striking resemblance to the windswept streets of downtown Toronto. He is a
creature of the night, hunting for clues and killers as the demons of the
underworld watch his every move. No wonder he never cracks a smile.
Payne came into existence as the
star of a bestselling series of video games, and he is suitably fleshed out
here by Mark Wahlberg, who flashes his menacing scowl early and often as he
lays waste to a gang of tattooed thugs. He is joined from time to time by Mila
Kunis, on hand as a leather-clad Russian assassin, but Max Payne is mostly a one-man
show, and a rather confusing one at
Director John Moore (Behind
Enemy Lines) dispenses with narrative
logic in short order and concentrates on crafting a stylishly joyless world for
his characters to tear apart. In this, he is successful. Max Payne is, more than anything
else, a visually stunning
achievement, filled with elaborately staged shootouts and hellish
hallucinations inspired by the mysterious, electric-blue wonder drug that is
somehow linked to the slaying of its hero’s family.
As for the story? It
doesn't really add up, but why sweat the small stuff? Beau Thorne's screenplay is absorbing enough to help pass the time between
Moore's most extravagant set pieces, even after it comes unglued. So give Max Payne the modest credit it deserves. It's a gloriously dumb, over-the-top slice of convoluted pulp fiction,
and far more entertaining than I would have expected.