Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Chris O'Donnell Studio/Run Time:
20th Century Fox, 100 mins.Languid video-game adaptation fails no matter its source material
The popular discourse on video-game movies is steeped in contempt, and it’s easy to overstate how much that’s justified
. Not that any of the movies are especially good—the canon is led by titles like Resident Evil
and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
—but the oft-repeated belief that they are uniquely tailored to rid teenage boys of their after-school paychecks suggests
that’s somehow exclusive to the genre.
Of course, it's not, and it’s important to remember that decades of fixation on the archetypal action movie is a marked influence on video games, too. The inanely stylized movies that have spawned from them over the years owe their sins as much to their medium as they do to that wayward cinematic influence itself.
Even in a wildly derivative movie like Max Payne, the latest high-profile game adaptation, the moments of frenzied action evocative of its original platform aren’t really the problem. That's more in director John Moore’s studied inability to afford the title antihero (played by a listless Mark Wahlberg) any marker more dynamic than yelling to the sky in overextended anguish and drearily sulking through the streets of New York.
In fact, the only we thing we really know about this Max Payne is that he’s motivated by revenge for the murder of his wife and child, with whom, naturally, he used to be the world's happiest man. The film struggles to maintain a basic measure of coherence as it follows Max’s digressive attempts to get his vengeance, which variously involve a neon-blue pharmaceutical narcotic, the military-industrial complex, Jackie from That ’70s Show and giant winged creatures in residence mostly because they look cool.
The willfully absurd action sequences help the movie slog along, but slog it does, right through to the obligatory after-credits scene to establish the possibility of a franchise. It’s a depressing reminder that it’s the film’s place in an unashamed commercial machine—not its source material—that’s to blame for its wholesale creative void.
Watch the trailer for Max Payne: