30 December 2008 | MaxBorg89
Payne in the ass!
Poor Mark Wahlberg. Ever since he obtained a fully deserved Oscar nomination for The Departed, he has struggled to hit it as big again: Shooter was enjoyable but unmistakably shallow, We Own the Night received very mixed reactions, and The Happening was one of the most unjustly panned movies of 2008 (well, minus the plastic plant scene). None of those, however, is as bad as Max Payne, which just about tails The Truth About Charlie for the title of Wahlberg's career low.
But hey, few people expected Payne to be any good in the first place. For starters, it's based on a video game, and those never turn out well on film. Secondly, it's directed by John Moore, whose body of work is all but encouraging (he remade The Omen, for crying out loud). Plus, it comes off as a mix of fantasy, action and revenge thriller - in short, a mess.
For those not familiar with the game, the story centers on the titular cop (Wahlberg), a brilliant homicide detective who's been reassigned after the brutal murder of his wife and kid. When a Ukrainian girl (Olga Kurylenko) is found dead with his wallet in her pocket, he's immediately charged with the murder, and the only way to clear himself is to find a thug named Lupino (Amaury Nolasco), who might even have something to do with Mrs. Payne's death (go figure..).
With some minor adjustments, this could easily be the latest installment of Death Wish. If only things were that simple: the plot is twisted even more with a subplot concerning a mind-altering drug called Valkyr, which makes everything look like Hell on screen and destroys Norse mythology's credibility off screen. Then again, decent scripts are rare when it comes to this sort of flick, so Moore is supposed to redeem himself with visuals and action scenes: in the first case, he delivers more than enough; in the second, he disappoints, and big time - not counting the first ten minutes and the last twenty, there's a serious lack of pace and ass-kicking.
Last but not least, the acting. Wahlberg does pretty much the same he did in Shooter: gritty and watchable, but never exploits his huge potential. Mila Kunis, who plays the "Payne girl" (sorry, couldn't resist), is totally miscast, being too young and with the wrong background (That '70s Show), except for the fact that she is of Ukrainian descent like her on-screen sister Kurylenko. Beau Bridges, generally a fine presence, manages the unenviable task of becoming worse as the picture progresses, and Nolasco's villain is as lifeless as they come (and let's not even get started on Ludicrous' "acting").
Long story short: if this were a game, it would reach the "Game over" stage after twenty minutes. Compared to this, even Tomb Raider looks decent enough.