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Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Chris O’ Donnell, Olga Kurylenko, Beau bridges, Chris Bridges

Director: John Moore

Screenplay: Beau Thome, Sam Lake

Cinematography: Jonathan Sela 

Original Score: Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders

Running Time: 99 Mins.

Take, if you will, the back catalogue of both ‘Marky’ Mark Wahlberg (Shooter, The Happening), director John Moore (The Omen and Flight Of The Pheonix remakes) and that most reviled of sub-genres, the computer game adaptation, mix them together and what do you get? Surprisingly by far the best film in said genre, by miles, how did this happen?! Of course it helps that in all fairness it is a little known game (unlike, say, Resident Evil or Tomb Raider), and is only based loosely on said computer game which had a fairly film friendly plot to begin with, Detective loses wife and child, detective seeks revenge, in other words simple and effective, though hardly original.

But where originality is lacking something else is injected, visual flair, by the bucketload. Think Sin City crossed with Constantine and you will be halfway there, some how Moore has overcome his director-for-rent style that begin with Behind Enemy Lines and was last seen in The Omen remake and given a distinct look and style to what could so easily have been run of the mill. Every shot is shrouded in shadow, snow or rain beating down giving an feeling of constant foreboding. This is even before the use of the slo-mo or Valkyries. Yes, slo-mo, that over used effect made most popular by the Matrix evolution of bullett time and emulated ever since. Max Payne, the game, was one of the first ever examples aside from the Matrix to make use of bullett time, so much so that it was the selling point of the game, rather than repeat this effect again Moore has opted only to slow down certain key scenes, some that admittedly border on ‘gun porn’, but are shot with such panache that they really are memorable, a mean feat to achieve in the copycat world of Hollywood.

Within the simple revenge plot, certain characters machinations become apparent with the involvement and use of the drug, Valkyr, causing some striking effects (the users witness the Norse Valkyrie Angels above, swooping down to take them away amidst a death of violence). The Valkyries look fantastic, showing the simplest of effects can make for some of the most atmospheric visuals, the standout scene in the film comes towards then end as we witness first hand the hallucinations, very few moments in film make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, but this did!

However, not all is as good, Mark Wahlberg, who in infinitely better here than in The Happening still struggles to give Max enough charisma to carry the film, I know he is meant to be brooding but even the most brooding of anti-heroes need some humour, and that lightness of touch is totally lacking often making the doom laden plot a bit TOO down-beat. We know you can do tortured and sad Mark, just try and make your characters a bit more likeable, you did it once (The Departed) try again! Current Bond girl Olga Kurylenko pops up as stunning as ever, just a shame she was in it more than just as eye candy, and Mila Kunis as her sister is equally as weak struggling with a seemingly needless role.

The problem with the face-lessness of the ‘femme-fatales’ is also inherent in the long list of villains, each as faceless as the other with only Beau Bridges raising anything more than a yawn, in a role clearly written with scenery chewing brother Jeff in mind. It’s a great shame that this has failed to light up the box office, maybe it was just too dark for most and struggled to find the right audience. I can’t help but think if Moore had achieved the rating he wanted without having to make cuts the experience would have been more visceral than it already is, not that violence makes a film good, but in some cases it makes all the difference, even suggested! 

VERDICT

Packed full of visual style it’s a shame that Max Payne has been shouldered with the ‘Based on a computer game’ tag, for it is worth so much more, an original film in its own right. Just as great shame that the acting talent isn’t on a par with the visuals, I think facts have to be faced, a leading man Mark Wahlberg is not. Nice Valkyries though!

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