Thursday, October 16, 2008

Max Payne

Looking Cool

For starters, don't be a dweeb and start heading out the door when the end credits roll. If you deem that the movie didn't have proper closure since there are additional folks who didn't get their due Payne justice, then this scene at the end with Mila Kunis playing the Devil's Advocate, will probably make some amends to what is essentially a relatively generic detective drama.

My first experience with the Max Payne game was by chance in a cybercafe. Back then, Counter-strike was all the rage, but having been thrown out of a server, I was poking around the computer's desktop, and noticed the game icon. My first impression after surviving all five minutes of it in the subway shootout, was that it allowed anyone who wanted to be Chow Yun-fat in a John Woo movie, play out thier fantasy in full slow-motion glory. It was one that spewed plenty of blood, but more gratifying to a gamer, was how varied and massive the firepower was.

How did the movie fare? Well for those looking for the same all-out wall to wall action, you might have to be patient until the hour mark before things really start to heat up. Even then, it takes a lot more set action pieces before you get to the money shots as seen in the trailer. Good thing though that director John Moore didn't go overboard with all the slow motion madness the trailers would have led you to believe. Then again, this made the action stick to the formula of body counts, unlimited rounds, and an almost indestructable hero.

Those who are worried that Max Payne will be turned into John Constantine, can put their fears to rest. In fact, most of those winged angels don't serve much purpose in the movie, except to give the visual effects and the computer graphics guys a job to do. It's actually quite unnecessary except to throw up red herrings when you try and figure out what function they serve, and then it will dawn on you that it's for stylistic purposes and not substance.

The opening of Max Payne made it look like it plagiarized that from Matt Damon's The Bourne Identity. And in fact, given the look and scowl on Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum's poster, he does look like a doppelganger of Mark Wahlberg, and both of them could probably interchange roles since all that is required, is a permanent scowl. As the character goes, Payne is out kicking down doors looking for the murderer of his wife and child. And this is essentially a one-man show easily dispatching countless of faceless, emotionless and pretty cliche (think The Fugitive type) villains. What I thought could have been frowned upon, especially when the morally right go up in arms to condemn the movie for its violence, would be what seemed like it condones drug use, never mind if it was used for survival purposes, because it made it seem like drugs make you tough and fearless.

Supporting female characters get turned into your classic flower vases, and I seriously think that newly minted Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko should start to look for more variety in the roles that she plays, rather than the usual vampish Russian who doesn't hesitate in shedding her clothes for the screen and wanting to bed the hero. While she's largely forgettable here, Mila Kunis' role as Mona Sax would likely be the meatier one, but alas I suspect that most of her scenes got cut and left at the floor of the editing room. It's quite amazing though how a little goth makeup and loads of leather could transform her from friendly hotel front desk staff in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, to a character that has a penchant for popping up with no rhyme or reason.

It's far from being a satisfactory game-turned-movie, mostly let down by the wafer thin plot that reeks of having been there and done that. Visually it's very beautiful to look at, with the constant gloomy nights punctuated with first snow. Fans of Wahlberg who are familiar with his bad-ass dude roles, would find that it's the same all over again, no matter if he's called Max Payne, Bob Lee Swagger, Dignam or Bobby Mercer.

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