October 24, 2008

Pain to the Max!

High hopes and dreams have been shattered here tonight folks. Big ones. It's common knowledge that adapting a video game to the big screen is a one way ticket to hell for your movie. Not one good game-to-movie project has ever been conceived, and some are so bad that they have gone down as some of the worst movies of all time. Max Payne seeks to remedy that, and it has the potential, which makes it all the more disappointing when it becomes clear that it does not even come close.
Max Payne has a bad life. He's a NYPD Detective whose family was killed a few years ago, and, naturally, he's been searching for the killer ever since. When a series of grisly murders occur in the city, Max discovers links to his family's murder in the all bloodshed. This leads him to a conspiracy involving a powerful corporation, a street drug, and people he thought he could trust. He then goes on a rampage, if you can call it that, to bring the wrongdoers to justice. Along the way he is helped by the sexy and deadly Mona Sax. Being a fan of the game, I must say that I am horrified by how far the plot of the movie deviates from the source material. In the game, there were compelling side plots involving a masked assassin and powerful crime family. They are no where to be seen in the movie. The movie is just your standard crime story where a cop discovers something huge while investigating something small. Yawn! Oh, by the way, those winged creatures you saw pulling guys out of windows in the trailers. Yeah, there's an explanation for it, and it's stupid. Really stupid. Don't be surprised if you are confused as to what the hell just happened when you step out of the theatre; Nothing is resolved in the end.
Mark Wahlberg plays Payne, and you know he only got the role because he looks like the guy on the cover of the video game box. He knows this too, seeing as he phones in the whole thing. He is flat and uninteresting. You don't care what happens to him, which, in case you don't know, is a bad thing for this type of story. Mila Kunis plays Mona Sax. She does an ok job for the five minutes she's on screen, but the performance is too cold and unmemorable to leave a mark. It's not worth talking about the other roles. They all show up for a grand total of 20 minutes each. I wish we could have seen more of the other characters instead of just looking a Wahlberg brooding the whole time. This is not a good example of his talent, and he should probably stop taking roles like this if he wants to get back in the limelight.
As I watched this thing, I became almost positive that director John Moore did not even look at the source material when he made this movie. Granted he brings a really good visual sense to NYC that makes it look like a cold, hard, and depressing world, which works for the story. But everything else is such a far cry from the game that you can't help but wonder if he even saw a video of the game being played. Moore's direction is stiff and lifeless. His action scenes are boring and too far in-between; his dialogue scenes are hammy and poorly written, and his special effects scenes are haphazardly put together and badly designed.
The most disappointing thing about Max Payne is that it had the potential and source material to be a legitimately good movie. Where as all the source material of other game-to-movie adaptations dealt with monsters or fantasy, Max Payne: The Game, told a real world story that was actually really well written and interesting. There's none of that in the movie. Also, the action in the game was constant and incredibly fun and stylized. It was influenced by John Woo films like Hard Boiled, and saw Max diving all over the place and shooting thousands of bad guys. Max, in the movie, shoots about ten people, and I don't think his feet leave the ground once. If your going to make an adaptation of something, be sure to include the thing that made that something special. Without the stylized violence and intriguing story line, Max Payne is just another boring "cop on the edge" picture.
In case you haven't figured it out, Max Payne: The Movie, pisses me off. I am mad that they did not do a better job with this. There is no excuse. Moore and Co. had all the things they needed to make Max Payne good, but I guess they decided it wasn't cool enough or something. If you want to experience a good version of this story, buy an Xbox, and play the game. To Max Payne's credit, it is the best video game adaptation to ever come along. To it's discredit, that's like saying Ebola is better then Smallpox!


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