Max Payne (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus thinks that all game movies are the same and nothing's changed here.
Editor's Note: It has come to my attention that this disc may not represent the disc that will be on sale in the UK, due to the shorter running time and lack of bonus material.
Based on the video game, (does anyone even say ‘video’ game anymore?) Max Payne stars Marky Ma—sorry—Mark Wahlberg, as depressed cop Max, who since the murder of his wife and child has been obsessed with finding their killer.
As his investigation leads him further into the dark underbelly of New York’s crime scene, Max begins to come up against a whole new kind of criminal and a new drug fuelled conspiracy that may be the key to finding the man that he’s been after for so long.
Max Payne joins the ever growing pantheon of game movies, a new(ish) sub genre that in all honesty doesn’t seem to be evolving into anything of worth. Each using ever so slightly different ingredients, all of these adaptations, no matter what the storyline, just seem to create the same cookie-cutter results and frankly it’s all getting a little tiresome.
The main problem with the game to movie conversions is that no matter how blurry the line between the two is becoming, they are drastically different entertainment experiences. Bar a few exceptions (the Metal Gear Solid series, a Few Final Fantasy instalments amongst others) games generally have paper thin plots for players to fill the gaps in with their gaming imaginations. The hokey acting, over the top characters and wild events laid out in most games' cut away sequences, are essentially only there to lay the seeds for your unique experience whilst playing and as proven with many a game movie, this just doesn’t hold up on film, even if it excels within the games. I mean, I love all the Grand Theft Auto games, storylines and all, but put this in a movie and it’s just gonna suck... or be like Crank, which while fun isn’t exactly inspiring.
I’ll admit upfront, I have no history with Max Payne. I know the title and some of the artwork from the game, but if you presented me with a multiple choice of screen shots from it, I’d struggle to pull one out of the line up. The story presented in Max Payne the movie (which I’d hope is the same as the game) isn’t that bad of an idea, even if it has been done a thousand times before (and better) in movies and the X-Files. Drug fuelled almost indestructible soldiers is not a new thing and military cover ups for the failed experiments is far from unique, but Max Payne comes with its own angle and it’s this element I liked. Sort of.
The idea that this drug ‘Valkyr’ gives the users the feeling of invincibility is tired, but the visuals of the dark winged demons/angels/gods that encompass them and how the world seems to distort around them were pretty damn good, if it wasn’t for one thing: it is literally only in the users' heads. No matter how dark and brooding the movie plays, hinting that there may be more to these killing that we are led to believe, the let down comes when all of the flashy visuals are literally just hallucinations rather than physical manifestations. I don’t know, this might just be me, but I was pretty much on board with all of this until I realized the movie is essentially just drug addled terrible characters getting shot and if you want to keep the descriptions in the gaming world, it’s like the bad guys are bouncing on an invincibility TV set from the Sonic series and they are surrounded by stars but no one else can see them. It just made it all feel a bit hollow and tacked on for me.
As for the cast, there’s little of note. Marky Ma—sorry—Mark Wahlberg does his usual performance of looking slightly baffled, like he’s working out a really hard sum in his head, mixed with the odd angry snarl pretty much sums it up but to give him his due, he still manages to carry a movie with ease (even if it’s another not too good one). Olga Kurylenko does we she does best and looks amazing all of the time and Mila Kunis plays the sidekick well enough, but there’s no denying the awkwardness of her overall look whilst holding a gun. Beyond that there’s a super clichéd performance from Beau Bridges and as this is a game movie, the cool MTV kids are kept happy with the inclusion of Ludacris and Nelly Furtado.
Max Payne could be good if the same story hadn’t been told so many times before. It would have a chance if any of it didn’t feel so throw-away and uncared for. Some of its action is passable, many of its visuals are well executed and Olga looks bloody great but all in all, this is just another game movie; another glossy, pretty looking, effects driven, slightly impressive stunt work, paper thin and sloppily written take on its playable counterpart. It’s watchable, in places it’s even engaging but once you're done, I highly doubt you’d feel the need to go back.
Despite my overall dismissal of the movie itself there’s no denying that Max Payne looks pretty good overall, if not a little nineties with its big use of sets. The stylistic choice to have falling snow and burning ember against a city's darkened streets and some pretty impressive slow motion demon and stunt shots is really what saves the movie from relying completely on its recycled plot.
The transfer holds up exceptionally well in all areas with its clean image and use of warm and cool hues. This being standard definition means it’s never quite as sharp as it should be but despite its limitations I was still pretty impressed overall. The use of lighting is a key factor to why this works so well and even though the majority of the movie is quite muted, colours are used well when they are called for and skin tones and textures all stand up really well.
I haven’t really been watching a lot of movies in standard definition for a while due to being 95% Blu-ray with my purchases of late, but I’ve got to say, watching Max Payne proves there’s life in the ol’ DVD format yet (even though I’d wager that this will be one hell of a pretty looking Blu-ray transfer).
Once again, Max Payne manages to impress with a satisfying sound mix that feels balanced and strong. The movie uses the rear speakers very effectively with loads of atmospheric sounds, such as falling ember, splintering wood, breaking windows and gun shots but it all manages to feel part of the overall sound design and never just a thrown in sound effect.
It’s a mix that fits the style of the movie well, without too many overbearing loud blasts to pull your attention in when you drift off (though there are a few). There’s plenty going on from kooky to action sound effects and all in all Max Payne does its job very well in the sound department.
None. Unless you count the trailer for Notorious. The US release seems to have a slightly better splattering but this review copy and the UK release in general seems to have gotten a little left out in the cold in the extras department.
20th Century Fox had a pretty lacklustre 2008 when it came to big box office draws and Max Payne is a prime example of where the studio is going wrong. Taking a franchise and merely putting it on screen with a handful of action shots and some pretty cast members just doesn’t cut it.
On the surface Max Payne looked like it could have had some potential, even if Mark Wahlberg isn’t a screaming sign of quality. Unfortunately the movie just ends up slipping into the ever growing trash pile of game-to-movie translations that clog up late night TV and feature in the three for £15 deals on the high street. Resident Evil, Hitman and Doom for £15—what a night in that would be! Urgh. Maybe fans of the game see something in this that I missed but I’ll remember this as the one where Olga Kurylenko looked great in that red slip dress because everything else was just plain forgettable.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 13th April 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Descriptive Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Dutch, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian
Subtitles: Hard of Hearing English, French, German, Italian
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Moore
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Olga Kurylenko
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery and Thriller
Length: 95 minutes
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