What Max Payne does right via the video game source material, and there’s very little, it does great, but when it strays too far off course and tries to reinvent the decade old mythology of the acclaimed Rockstar Games series, it falls virtually flat.
Fans of the video games are not going to be happy with this movie in any capacity, there just isn’t enough left of the original story, which, itself was based on the detective noir classics of the 1940′s and 1950′s. Characters have been removed, plot points have been changed, and while Max Payne escapes the virtual disembowelment that was Hitman, it still is unfaithful to its core audience and mediocre to the general public, another missed opportunity in a long run of missed opportunities.
The film centers around Max Payne, a cold case desk jockey looking for the men who killed his wife and baby girl. While in the games Max goes to work for the DEA after immediately learning about the drug Valkyr, here it takes a better part of the movie for him to discover the circumstances behind his wife’s death and the connection to Aesir Pharmaceuticals. There’s a deeper conspiracy (of course) involving double crosses, a mercenary for hire in Mona Sax (Mila Kunis), and the discrediting of Payne himself. Gone missing are the entire “secret society” subplot with government’s involvement in bringing down Aesir and using Payne to do it for them. Sure there’s a tease at the end of the film for a sequel, but anything they include should have been included here in order to move on to the much superior story following Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne.
Generally Mark Walberg portrays the titular hero with ease and his general disdain for anyone and everyone comes across faithfully to the gruff graphic novel counterpart we see in the series. The dramatically underused Kunis in the role of Mona Sax is going to have the most fan uproar with the character being relegated to a backup character that is never put in the moral dilemma in which to kill Payne (in the game she refuses and is “killed” for her betrayal to her employers). Alex Balder (Donal Logue) survives the translation but is disposed of almost immediately (different from the game). The only character the really survives intact is B.B. Hensley (Beau Bridges) but by the time he appears on screen you’ve just stopped caring.
As a general movie, forgetting the source material, Max Payne is hardly above average with a general revenge story focusing on one wronged man aiming to take on the world to get to the bottom and put his wife and children to rest. The Punisher did this much better and even that isn’t saying much.
Max Payne will go down as yet another video game property brought to the big screen in such a sloppy manner that no one is going to like the results. How long before Hollywood realizes that to capitalize on the popularity of these games, they need to actually hire someone who has played and loves them to write and direct?