Based on the groundbreaking and hugely successful computer game franchise, Max Payne is another superb example of how difficult and pointless it is trying to convert a great game into a great film.
On the face of it this could work. The original game was heavily influenced by action movies and even pioneered the use of bullet time. The storyline is as varied as it is watertight and the atmosphere lends itself to an edgy neo-noir styling. What becomes baffling, therefore, is how this wonderful potential was brutally bludgeoned into fragments of heavily sylised action and effects which were then glued back together with a feeble storyline that so flimsy it relies on the same flashback to the opening scene again and again.
The movie plot (very different to the game) is loosely that Max Payne is a cop consigned to the cold case department of the NYPD. There he sits and looks moody while obsessing over the murder of his wife and child several years ago. At the start of the film he is suddenly faced with new leads into his wife’s mysterious death, leads which take him right to the top of an evil pharmaceutical chain that’s producing drugs to make mega soldiers. Unfortunately the drugs also seem to be addictive, and most of the people who use it don’t become mega soldiers, they just hallucinate shadowy monsters then die.
Within this muddled mash there are some great looking scenes. The New York cityscape looks fantastic, and the shadowy backstreets lashed with rain and snow really maximise the neo-noir roots of the game. The showy fight scenes and the odd shadow valkyrie monsters do look pretty cool too, but all of this just enhances the feeling that this movie is little more than a few well visualised ‘cool shots’ surrounded by poorly prepared padding.