October 23, 2008


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Max Payne (PG-13)
Mark Wahlberg shoots some stuff and walks in slo-mo in front of some flaming stuff and generally tries to up his amount of bad-ass-ness in the nonetheless muted Max Payne, an action movie based on a video game.

This doesn’t necessarily mean what it once did. The movie certainly has the right look for the gritty graphic-novel sensibility that it seems to be going for. And I think a really awesome-popcorn-fun movie could be made from this story. This one just isn’t it.

Max Payne (Wahlberg) works in the cold-case office of his gritty city, hunting the city in his off hours for the man who killed his wife and infant daughter years earlier. During one such tour of society’s underbelly, he meets Natasha (Olga Kurylenko), a girl whose tattoo leads him to bring her home for a chat but whose trampiness leads him to kick her out. But not before she has stolen his wallet, which his former partner Balder (Donal Logue) finds at the scene of Natasha’s grisly murder the next day. While the rest of the force thinks Max is a suspect, Balder thinks Natasha’s murder might be related to Payne’s family’s murders but he isn’t able to carry that theory very far before he too ends up in a pool of blood. Now Payne’s a suspect for both murders and has to stay one step ahead of his own police department if he wants to find the killer. Luckily, he has a little help in Natasha’s deadly sister Mona (Mila Kunis), who is herself pretty good at the shooting and the walking in slo-mo.

Max Payne also has a nifty plot device that allows for lots of flames and dark imagery in fight scenes — all the necessary ingredients for fist-pumping action and cheesy fun. But somehow the movie just feels flat, like it needs some fizz added or like the volume is turned down. It seems to be going for a stylized Sin City-ish look but it doesn’t add any of that movie’s dark sparkle. More humor, bigger fight scenes, gorier violence — Max Payne needs at least one of these things to really pop on screen. C

Rated PG-13 for violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language. Directed by John Moore and written by Beau Thorne (from a video game by Sam Lake), Max Payne is an hour and 39 minutes long and distributed by 20th Century Fox.