Max Payne (2008)

Rating: C

Dir: John Moore
Star: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris

Particularly early on, I wondered if the last-named actor was also going to provide an accurate one-word summary of the entire movie, as it struggled to work out what it wanted to be. Troubled Cop (TM) Payne (Wahlberg) is still searching obsessively for those who killed his wife and child three years previously, a search while eventually leads him back towards her old job at pharmaceutical company Aesir. Meanwhile, a woman’s body turns up shredded in an alley, with Payne’s ID lying next to it, and his old partner is similarly attacked – Max becomes the chief suspect in both killings, to the discomfort of his colleagues on the force. How does this tie together with the winged tattoos he sees on a number of people connected to the case, or to the drug ‘Valkyr’?

Early on, this muddled its way through a series of identity crises: is it a revenge-driven thriller? A supernatural horror movie? A police procedural? There’s an unevenness of tone that fails to draw the viewer in: I speak as someone aware of the game (our son was a big fan), yet who hasn’t played it, though the overall reaction by fans was none too kind. It seems odd to tone an M-rated game down to a PG-13 rated film, and whether for this reason or another, the results seems to lack much intensity. I enjoyed the visual style, New York permanently awash in light snow, with one particularly cool moment where the falling snow turned into fiery embers. While there are a couple of similar flashes of imagination, they are not enough to keep the interest going, and Wahlberg is so low-key as to be almost flat-lined. The film needs a more personable performance at its core if it is to have any hope of engaging the viewer, on any level beyond the merely visceral.