Max Payne

John Moore’s big-screen adaptation of the popular “Max Payne” video game is not a complete disaster; it’s mediocre at best. The film feels just as rushed and as dull as last year’s “Hitman,” with the one exception that it looks slightly better. I can’t comment on how the movie compares to the game because I’ve never played it, but I can only hope it’s more entertaining than this no-brainer.

Mark Wahlberg stars as the titular character, a grieving detective who has made it his personal mission to hunt down those responsible for the brutal murders of his family. Payne’s investigation reaches its climax when he stumbles across a mysterious tattoo, a discovery that will eventually lead him to the truth behind his family’s murder and the identity of the killer.

I will keep my synopsis this short because the main story line of the movie is too chaotic to describe in greater detail. The lack of a coherent plot is also the greatest weakness of “Max Payne,” a film with an incredibly shallow murder case that’s too easy to solve and clearly fails to generate a suspenseful enough intrigue. Beau Thorne’s script is a mess beyond doubt, focusing on too many things and rarely giving us a chance to actually care about what’s happening onscreen.

I know adapting a video game can pose a dilemma because the screenwriter has to condense a massive story line into a two-hour movie without taking too great of distance from the source material. Still, that’s not a good enough excuse to come up with a boring plot and utterly simplistic characters. Unfortunately, “Max Payne” is just that, and not much more.

With the story failing to satisfy, how about the movie’s entertainment factor? I’m sorry to complain some more, but action sequences are pretty scarce here. I can think of one specific shoot-out I rather enjoyed, although it is neither special nor really engaging. It just looks good. “Payne” boasts a solid production design with a bunch of excellent effects, and Moore’s direction isn’t bad either. The editing is off at times, but the film is visually pleasing.

Sadly, that’s about the only positive, because even the cast fails to deliver a memorable show. Wahlberg obviously put a lot of energy into his lead role, but I wish the script had given him a bigger opportunity to make his character one worth remembering. Mila Kunis’ performance as Mona Sax tanks, while appearances by Beau Bridges, Ludacris and Amaury Nolasco go unnoticed.

“Max Payne” is a missed opportunity. Fans of the video game may indeed enjoy this soft PG-13 flick, but I didn’t come across anything appealing in this big-screen adaptation. No, I never got around to play the game, but something tells me it must be a whole lot more captivating to experience than this lifeless sucker.

Review by Franck Tabouring