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Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Max Payne

Those expecting a rant upon the release of the video game movie Max Payne will be unpleasantly suprised, because for all the flaws that the movie had, I must say that I did indeed enjoy the film. Now, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting much, what with the history of lacklustre video game adaptions and the fact that this was a much loved game of mine. Put it this way, I love Max Payne the game. It was an enjoyable romp with a combination of neo-noir grit and the pace of a John Woo film. I completed the game and its sequel numerous times, so put it this way, as a fanboy of the original source, I was expecting to see an absolute mess of one of my favourite interactive experiences. However, it was certainly a pleasant surprise. Right, we'll nail this dead to rights (wink-wink to other gamers), Max Payne is one sullen, pissed-off copper who is consumed with finding the murderers of his wife and child. Start with the good. The best thing about this film by a long stretch is the cinematography by Jonathan Sela. It is an interesting style that is used, kind of like a spawn off of Sin City and The French Connection. It combines the style of the Sin City colour-coded cinematography and adds in the neo-noir grit associated with both. As far atmosphere goes, the movie pretty much nails that dingy and dirty feel of walking through the game. To be honest, it was the main thing that kept me interested in the film. I guess it goes to prove that any movie is watchable if you wrap it up in a nice package. Wait, scratch that, I forgot about Charlies Angels. Anyway, it was such good work that I believe it gives Cloverfield a run for its money in my end of year awards cinematography category, and this couples well with its artistic direction and production design. The film certainly is suitably dark and atmospheric. Mark Wahlberg also, despite not doing anything great with a character who, I guess, lets his actions do the talking. Despite my feelings that he could have done something with the character rather than being completely stone cold, he fills the shoes well and could be opening himself up opportunities for a franchise. However, despite these above praiseworthy features, there isn't much else to praise. For example, the plot and screenplay are very poor, with everything seemingly an excuse for Payne to get from A to B. The screenplay should be able to act in coercion and conjunction with the plot, and thus enhance the plot and what is occuring onscreen. With this, you just feel terribly underwhelmed. If you understand the source material from whence it came, you realise just how much more the film could have been. In terms of story, the game is one of the best examples possible, a goldmine of ideas and originality. If they had remained loyal to the material given, they would certainly no doubt have a better movie. For example, in the movie, Jack Lupino, the main villain of the film, is only a small role in the large scheme of things in the videogame. With this, they give Lupino a poor backstory as an excuse for him to become the main villain. This is one of those examples of a poor villain who you know is just there as an excuse for an intimidating prescence. I mean, let's face it, he is just a dope fiend. For a main villain, there really isn't much to him. To bring it back to the point of my argument, the game is split into three distinct parts. You face off with Lupino at the end of the first part, and this is only whenever the game's plot really begins to thicken. They have messed with the structure of the game's story, and thus there is no mystery in it any more. By the end of this, we know who the real villain is, and let's face it, should be dead at the end of this film. Instead, we are left dangling for what I'm assuming is a cliffhanger hinting again to my afformented franchise theory. Also, what happened to John Moore as a director. I really enjoyed Behind Enemy Lines, a movie I still believe to be underrated, then he made that awful Omen remake, and then this. Is it the fact that he is working on adaptation material that has already been done? Either way, I do not know, because there is a great lack of direction here. There is no control as to what is happening here. It's as if Moore has suddenly become mute, unable to communicate and get his point across except through misinterpreted body language. To finish upon that, Max Payne is a film with some absolutely superb visuals and has a flawed, but suitable performance from Wahlberg, but otherwise the lead villain is terrible, due in part to the poorly developed script not focusing on developing character and the lack of direction in part due to one John Moore. And one more thing, why in god's name is Ludacris, a black hip-hop artist, playing Jim Bravura, in the game a fat, loud-mouth aging Chief of Police? Clearly, they wanted someone cool to play him, so the creative mind's thought "let's get someone really Ludacris" to play the role. Really good joke, guys.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.8/10

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