Thursday, November 13, 2008

MAX PAYNE - beautiful imagery let down by transparent plot

I don't believe in heaven. I apparently don't believe in suspenseful plotting either.MAX PAYNE is a beautiful, gothic thriller that convincingly establishes an air of mystery and menace in its opening half hour. In a dystopian present, skyscrapers sit alongside wood-panelled offices stuffed with 1920s filing cabinets. Drug addicts see visions of dark angels and are tatooed with norse icons to protect them from evil. There are dark hints that the movie is going to tackle the insanity of the war on terror. My expectations were high. In the midst of this, Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is an old-fashioned detective working cold cases from a basement, not least that of his wife's murderers. He is enmeshed in a series of brutal murders - a beautiful Russian drug addict (olga Kyrlenko), his ex-partner that seem to be linked to that traumatic ur-event. These coincidences aren't lost on internal affairs, and Max turns to his mentor (Beau Bridges) - now a security guard in a spookily slick pharma company - for help.

The problem with Max Payne is that for all its gothic beauty and superficial style, the engine of the film is transparent. You can guess whodunnit and why within the first half hour and after that, the movie just becomes one beautifully staged montage after another. Some have criticised MAX PAYNE for ripping of SIN CITY and 300 in its visual style. My criticism is that it doesn't rip off Frank Miller enough. More precisely, those Miller adaptations work because they have strong stories at their heart - the action is propelled by high stakes. The writers of MAX PAYNE had a tougher job - a self-propelled video game has less narrative to crib than the Hot Gates. Still, you have to call it as you see it, and this movie, stylish as it may be, disintegrates into banal shoot-outs.

MAX PAYNE is on release in the Philippines, Serbia, Australia, Finland, Greece, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Thailand, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the US, the UK, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Russia, Austria, Denmark, Mexico, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, France and Hong Kong. It opens next week in Argentina, Germany, South Korea and Brazil and the following week in Belgium and Chile, It opens in Venezuela on January 2nd.


  1. Yeah, the plot in the game is barely there, but it's decent enough for the game. The problem with game to movie adaptations is that they never change the plot enough to make a cohesive film, or they completely fuck it up (Super Mario Brothers, I'm looking at you).

  2. I have to say I think the plot in MAX PAYNE the video game is actually better than the plotting in most video games. If any Vg-movie had a chance this was it. Still, it's not as bad as Super Mario. HITMAN remains my favourite.