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"Max Payne"

Directed by John Moore.
Written by Beau Thorne.  Based on the video game by Remedy Entertainment.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges and LUDA!!!!
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  10/18/08


To get ready for the movie release of "Max Payne", I played through the two Max Payne games, first "Max Payne" and then "Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne."  Both are short, violent, expletive-laden yarns featuring our hero Payne, a New York City cop whose wife and young child were murdered by thugs working for the evil Aesir Corporation.  Max puts down nearly a thousand people with all manner of firearms and the use of "Bullet Time" to get the deeds done between the two games, told in a pulpy comic book-style format.  There is literally no problem-solving and no story to work through in this game...all you end up doing is killing everyone in your path.

"Max Payne", the movie, is rated PG-13.  (Let's call this, oh, Problem #1.)  The games are not very bloody, but they are violent, and often the action is non-stop.  There is a ton of sex-related content and heavy use of profanity...but, apparently, the studio wanted to deliver a movie that could make money, and since the general belief is that R-rated films can't pile up cash, "Max Payne" lost in that regard.

"Max Payne", the movie, stars Mark Wahlberg as Payne.  This, obviously, is a mistake.  The game's Payne seems to be a take on Bruce Willis when he still had hair, playing through as a husky-voiced noir cop.  I like Wahlberg, but he is not this character.  Certainly, he's not a match like Angelina Jolie was a match for the Lara Croft character from "Tomb Raider."  Further casting errors:  Mila Kunis (from "That 70s Show") as Mona Sax, not sexy enough, not evil enough, not the femme fatale that she is portrayed as in "Max Payne 2."  Also, strangely, the movie decided to NOT make Mona Max's love interest, which is clearly what she is in the games.

And, in the games, Detective Jim Bravura is an old white guy...and, in the movie, he's played by a young black guy you may know as Ludacris.  Yeah.

Some of the atmosphere feels right in "Max Payne", the movie, and occasionally, the movie remembers its roots.  But, the action is not good here and it's very minimal.  I was expecting long, drawn-out shootouts with bad guys, or Max diving around in slow-motion a lot to take out baddies, or Max with his signature dual Berettas.  I was expecting Max to use painkillers at some point, his signature healing method in the games.  But, more than anything else, I was hoping a bad guy would turn around, see Payne and give me one of the signature lines from the games:

"'s PAYNE!!!"

None of that is here.  We get a different plot featuring Olga Kurylenko from "Hitman" and the upcoming Bond flick, a different bad guy, a different ending, and a useless throwaway scene at the end of the credits.

This isn't awful, but it's not good AND it's not really based well in the source material.  Wait until next fall to watch it on HBO!!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09