Payneful

This was always going to be a difficult review. I’ve previously mentioned my reservations about this adaptation and watching the film was aware that I ran the risk of being too harsh if it didn’t meet my pre-conceived notion of what a Max Payne film should be. With that in mind I’ll try to separate the game-specific stuff from the film itself.Let’s start with some background. Max Payne was a first person shooter on the PC back in 2001 made by the Finnish game studio Remedy. It’s sequel was released in 2003 and surprisingly was almost as good as the original. At the time of it’s release Max Payne was pretty ground breaking, most noticeably for its gameplay elements such as bullet time, but more important was the rich noir-inspired story and arresting graphic novel design elements displayed throughout cut scenes and story sequences. It was an adult game that looked at addiction, psychosis, lust, and revenge.

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The first game started with Max as a beat cop coming home to find his wife and infant daughter murdered by junkies. After burying his loved ones Max transfers to the DEA to focus on his new obsession – finding the people responsible for the murder of his family. 3 years later we come back to Max who’s now deep undercover with a local Mafia family who oversee the distribution of the drug Valkyr, the same drug the junkies were high on. The game progresses with Max being framed for the murder of a cop, and running from both the police and the Mafia as he seeks revenge before being captured or killed.

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The film starts with a similar opening: Max’s family is murdered as laid out in the game, but rather than following the story-line already defined 7 years ago, we cut to scenes inside a police station where random cops provide nothing but exposition and bad one-liners. We move to a very matrix scene in a train station where Max is jumped by junkies. Instead of the highly stylised bullet time effects we expect we’re treated to a by-the-numbers face off scene highlighting what a bad-arse Max is. There’s also real push to highlight the supernatural, Norse mythology elements which begin effecting the addicts (which is more than a little out of place).Irritation swiftly arises: Max doesn’t smoke or drink, he doesn’t narrate, and he sure as hell isn’t bat-shit crazy. The hooks we have grown to know and love about the character have been removed, leaving little more than a standard rogue cop in a story sporting thoroughly uninteresting characters. You will know who the big bad is as soon as he’s introduced, you will get a metric fuck-tonne of exposition as the movie plods along, and you will be left with the impression that nobody involved in shooting, writing, or acting in this film has played the fucking game.Visually and stylistically (excepting some of the VFX work) the film fails too; Director John Moore doesn’t reference the stunning film noir genre that the video game managed to capture – you won’t see any Vertigo, Blue Velvet, or Singing Detective here. If anything it often looks more like a tele movie than film, just because you don’t have a pile of cash to play with doesn’t mean you need to have small ideas. Sound design is often interesting but derivative, and it’s noticeable that the production borrows heavily but artlessly from better work. There’s quite a lot of Constantine in here, a bit of The Matrix, some of the previously mentioned Seven, a fleeting attempt at some Sin City, and even a little bit of Gladiator. The screenplay is terrible (Beau Thorne, I know this was your first screenplay but by fuck I hope it’s your last) with bad dialogue and inconsistencies throughout, and most of all it’s not Max Payne in anything but name.Still on the visual side I do need to mention SPIN, the VFX house who did the effects work on the film, and Visual Effects Supervisor Everett Burrell and VFX Producer Ken Wallace. Given the budget of the movie (around $35 Mil all up) they really did some stellar work.  The VFX sequences of the film are the only time I felt like somebody had paid attention to the game – well done guys.We’re left with a terrible film which should never have been made, It’s tedious to watch and fails not only as an action film but also as a game adaptation.1.5 stars.

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