Austin Film Festival Review: Max Payne


Director:John Moore

Cast:Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Chris O'Donnell

Running Time:100.00


It has been quite a while since a video game has successfully crossed media lines and formed into a successful film. In the past, audiences have had to sit through the likes of DOA: Dead or Alive and Doom to get the occasional Laura Croft: Tomb Raider. Sadly, Max Payne proves to be one of the struggles as it lacks all the necessary ingredients to qualify as a breakthrough success.

First the story. Following a life changing altercation in his home, cop Max Payne, played by Mark Wahlberg, walks in on the most horrific crime imaginable as both his wife and child are brutally murdered for what appears to be no reason at all. Forced to cope with the tragic incident, Payne moves to cold cases, working day and night to find his family's killer and serve some street justice that is long overdue. No matter the cost or the sacrifice, Payne has one mission, and with a new string of killings occurring in the city, he realizes that he just might have to go to hell and back to find the man he is looking for.

Sound interesting? It should. However, for those that are not a fan of the game, you will quickly find yourself stuck in a dark and gloomy world with no indication of what is to come. For the entire film, I sat there in absolute bewilderment as I rigorously tried to piece together the puzzle that comprises the story, and to this very moment, I have no idea where certain characters fit in.

Take Mila Kunis as an example. Most know for her role in last summer's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Kunis has some killer looks, making you wonder why I was so invested in her character. But when she continuously shows up out of nowhere, guns blazing, you have to question her part in the story. Who is she working for? What does she have invested in the sudden turn of events? And most importantly, is she with, or against our protagonist? Unfortunately, no answers were found as the film continued on, making way for a 'Kunis appearance' every once in a while, allowing her to vanish just as soon as she appeared. The result was mixed as she provided a great distraction from the other daunting aspects of the film, but in terms of the story, she does nothing but create inconsistencies and a huge question mark in the minds of all those watching.

The same goes for Chris O'Donnell. Though his character was well placed and crucial in the overall telling, he was hardly ever on screen. Apart from his character introduction, a scene that lasted no more than ten seconds, and a semi-climatic shoot-out, Jason Colvin is nowhere to be found, a trait that makes it difficult for viewers to connect to his side of the story.

Then there is Beau Bridges, whose B.B. Hensley is seen a little too often in the film as he gives one of the most destructive performances of his career. Comprised of hideous acting, ransacked timing and unjustifiable interactions with the rest of the cast, Bridges has officially dug his own grave on his once successful acting career. He has no heart, never fully able to absorb his character, failing to bring him to life for all those anxiously watching.

Thankfully Mark Wahlberg delivers well on his name as he absorbs the role of Max Payne, a man who must venture into the dark supernatural world in order to find answers to some of his dying questions. I am unsure of how strong his performance truly is, as I can only compare it to the likes of Bridges and Kunis, and sadly neither provide much competition. Regardless, Wahlberg shows why over the last few years he has become a movie-carrying name. He has a presence when he steps onto the screen, creating life when everything around him is dead, and helping to better a film, regardless of how pathetic it might be.

On a higher note, I am pleased to mention that both the cinematography, (though done with an excessive use of CGI), and the direction of John Moore are both fascinating as they lift the film from the dark depths of the bottomless sea, giving it a spark of life that doesn't officially rejuvenate the dying flick, but does make it bearable to the end.

Though nothing groundbreaking, Moore is able to capitalize on his opportunities, giving audiences unique angle shots and climatic special effects, all of which blend with the crisp visuals that provide a well-suited backdrop to this supernatural thriller. However, no amount of CGI, special effects or Wahlberg sightings could save Max Payne from a well deserved position amongst the year's most disappointing films.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.

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