Max Payne

Release Date: October 17, 2008

Movie of the Day for Thursday, June 12, 2008
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 The game is *not* pro-pacifist.

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167/196 Max Braden Some interesting cinematography, but I wish they had chosen between full supernatural or action movie. The ending reminded me of Alien Nation.

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Movie adaptations of videogames happen so often now that they have stopped being novel. Over the years, we have had the good (Resident Evil), the bad (Resident Evil: Apocalypse) and the ugly (the Uwe Boll oeuvre). The films that Hollywood has locked on as profitable are action titles where lots of things blow up and people get shot. Why should videogame adaptations be any different from everything else the studios release, after all? But I digress. This line of thinking has lead to a comfort zone about box office expectations for such releases. 2007’s Hitman is a perfect example of what we expect when we think about videogame movies. It opened to $13.2 million before eventually ending its theatrical run with $39.7 million. This is not the best result in the world for a $24 million production, but the titles generally wind up profitable once they are released on home video.

Given the lucrative, conservative approach to theatrical releases above, it is unsurprising that Max Payne would be chosen for big screen adaptation. This title features so much shooting and blowing stuff up that upon the initial game’s release in 2001, it was immediately criticized for being a The Matrix clone. The game’s developers argued that this was impossible; they pointed out the gestation period of their game extended back to a time prior to The Matrix’s release. To wit, the programmers stated that the premise for Max Payne had been formulated several years prior to the movie. They doth protest too much, however, as there is simply no disputing the fact that after the film’s release in March of 1999, the kind people at Remedy Entertainment who made the game had plenty of time to “tweak” it into a Matrix style of game. That meant plenty of bullet time slow motion violence and enough gunfire to satiate Dirty Harry. So, when you think about Max Payne the movie, simply consider it to be a 100 minute spin on all the action scenes from The Matrix. Also consider how much the Wachowski Brothers must regret the fact that they didn’t just do this for the Matrix sequels.

In terms of storyline, Max Payne plays out a lot like Marvel comic book hero The Punisher. Payne is happily married with children until the day that a bunch of junkies attack him and his family. His wife and daughter are slain, so he resolves himself to take revenge in the only way he knows how. He blames the manufacturers of Valkyr, the drug that has ensnared his family’s slayers. The designer of the drug, Aesir Corporation, seems above the law. So, Payne decides to work within the system to bring them down (okay, this part isn’t very Punisher-like). He joins the DEA with his primary goal being the eradication of Valkyr along with his taking revenge upon its creators. Along the way, the bullets will fly. I’m talking tens of thousands of them.

Mark Wahlberg of The Happening will star in the project. Beau Bridges will portray his mentor and deceased father’s best friend, which is almost exactly the role his brother Jeff played in Iron Man. Chris O’Donnell, the man whose career was ruined by Batman and Robin, is cast as a villainous Aesir executive. Donal Logue of The Knights of Prosperity plays Payne’s best friend, Mila Kunis of Forgetting Sarah Marshall is an assassin seeking revenge for her sister, and rap star/fledgling actor Ludacris is an internal affairs office who presumably has a problem with Payne’s tendency to shoot everything that moves.

Max Payne is almost certainly not going to be a breakout hit. Its box office behavior is predictable and profitable for its distributor, Fox. The only concern is that the last bullet-gasm film in the John Woo-wannabe genre (prior to Hitman), Shoot ‘Em Up, earned only $12.8 million against a $39 million budget. Movies that feature an orgy of bullets do not appeal to everyone, but the good news is that they do appeal to teen males, the most important demographic in the industry. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for Max Payne
Main Cast Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges
Supporting Cast Chris O'Donnell
Director John Moore
Screenwriter Beau Thorne
Distributor Twentieth Century Fox
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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