For fanboy devotees of the videogame on which it is based, Max Payne is pure pleasure. But everyone else may not want to take this walk on the dark side.
Max Payne started life as a popular 2001 videogame and now the dark, dreary material has morphed into feature film that tries to give a back story for the tortured title character. Payne's (Mark Wahlberg) wife and newborn baby are tragically killed and now Max, a DEA agent, is involved in the investigation of a series of murders that could provide a link to solving the mystery of his family's demise. Demons, in the form of a winged serpents, haunt Max -- but nothing real or imagined will stand in the way of his quest. He teams with a beautiful Russian mobster and assassin, Mona Sax (Mila Kunis), whose sister Natasha (Olga Kurylenko) is also killed, giving equal reason to seek revenge. Complicating matters is Max's mentor B.B. (Beau Bridges), an ex-cop who now does security for a large pharmaceutical company which may hold the key to the mystery. Forces -- both real and hidden -- are hard at work to keep Max, who is clearly fighting his inner demons, from reaching his goal.
Wahlberg is earnest and knows how to kickass, but the murders of his young wife and baby, which is meant to give emotional heft to the character, is really not enough to connect us to this guy. Still, he does quite nicely in the numerous action scenes and is at home playing a DEA agent. Mila Kunis, so appealing in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, shows a saucier side here and has great potential as an action mama, perhaps the kind of ball-buster Aeon Flux should have been. Olga Kurylenko, who is also in the new James Bond film Quantum of Solace is well-used in the few scenes she has, and Prison Break's Amaury Nolasco is convincing as a tough ex-vet who now has drifted into the drug underworld. Beau Bridges has a tricky role he pulls off without tipping the story over, while the other Bridges in the film -- rapper-turned-actor Chris "Ludicris" Bridges -- is an Internal Affairs detective who seems to sense something serious going on with Max.
John Moore has been clearly influenced by the Matrix and new Batman movies, creating a dark and ominous New York City with winged creatures reminiscent of the mythological Valkyrie roaming the grey skies. These creatures are apparently meant to physically represent the tortured thoughts in the mind of Max Payne. This creature feature aspect does not exist in the videogame, and it's an interesting, if not entirely plausible addition, from the mind of writer Beau Thorne. Moore invests his visuals with equal doses of reality and fantasy in an uneasy mix that has you wondering what's real and what's Memorex. Subjective POV camerawork and slow-motion shots sometimes give us the feeling we are watching Matrix, but the stylistic touches do seem to be in line with the character's journey. Moore has laid on the visual effects effortlessly, particularly in the creation of the creatures who haunt Payne's subconscious life.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.