Today we have yet another video game that was turned into a movie. That didn’t necessarily go over so well with some of the movies from the 90’s but at the turn of the century, things seemed to change. Now I will admit that I never played any of the Max Payne games before, which is funny because it seems like the type of game I would have liked, but I was familiar enough about them to be curious about this movie. Still, there were a lot of things going on that prevented me from going to see it in theaters and I basically wound up picking up a cheap copy during the last days of Blockbuster. So that’s how I come to find myself watching today’s movie, Max Payne.
The plot [Unrated Director’s Cut]: Detective Max Payne finds himself thrown into a frozen river and as he sinks below the surface, he sees the bodies of people that have drowned before him and thinks back to what brought him here. One week earlier, Max is going through his files as a detective in the Cold Case Unit and thinking back to his wife Michelle and daughter Rose, who were killed but the crime was never solved. Receiving a tip from one of his informants, Max heads to a subway station, where he finds three drug addicts. When they follow him into the restroom to try and rob him, Max knocks out the one holding a gun and begins questioning the second one, Doug, about his wife’s murder. The third addict makes a run for it down the tracks but he is attacked by shadowy, winged creatures and ends up getting hit by a train. Max goes to see Trevor, who is hosting a party, to try and get a new lead but Trevor says he has nothing else to give to Max. A woman named Natasha approaches Max and he notices the same tattoo on her arm that was on Doug’s. Before he can ask her about it, her sister Mona arrives and tries to get Natasha to leave the party with her. Max ends up intervening and convinces Mona to let Natasha stay, then he goes looking for Natasha. Max notices a room, where some strange things going on, and comes face to face with a man named Jack Lupino, who has more winged tattoos on his arms and face when Natasha appears and asks Max to take her away. Max takes her back to his place and tries to ask her some questions but she tries to seduce him and he kicks her out after she unknowingly insults Michelle. Unknown to Max, Lupino had followed them and is standing on a rooftop while Natasha is making a call as she is leaving. As she walks down an alley, she is attacked and killed by the shadowy, winged creatures. The next day, Max is heading to work when his former partner Alex Balder asks him to come with him to a crime scene. At the crime scene, Max sees that the victim is Natasha and Alex shows him his wallet, which was found at the crime scene. The two take off, unaware that Lupino is watching them from the rooftop. Alex tries talking to Max to get his side of what happened but the two end up arguing and Max walks off. Later, Alex is looking over the photos of Natasha and recognizes the her tattoo as the same on one of the men that had killed Michelle so he tries calling Max but when he gets no answer, he leaves a message and heads over to Max’s apartment. Meanwhile, Mona finds out about her sister’s death and pays off a cop, who gives her Max’s address as well as tells her who Natasha’s last calls were too. Max gets Alex’s message and heads to his apartment but when he finds the door forced open, he checks inside and finds his place has been trashed and Alex lying dead on the floor. Before Max can check on Alex, he is attacked by an unknown assailant but manages to fire his weapon at the man before he loses consciousness. When he comes too, Max finds himself in the hopsital, with his father’s old partner BB Hensley watching over him. BB tells Max that Alex died and Max decides to leave so he can pay his respects to his friend. BB takes Max by his office at Aesir Corporation, the pharmaceutical company that Michelle used to work for, and he runs into the company’s CEO, Nicole Horne. After changing clothes, Max heads to Alex’s house to pay his respects but his wife Christa slaps him and asks him to leave. As they are leaving, he is picked up by LT. Jim Bravura from Internal Affairs and brought to the station for questioning but Max gets pissed off with the questions and leaves, saying he wants his union lawyer. BB tries to talk to Max as they are leaving but Max gets off the elevator and heads towards Alex’s office in Homicide. Locking the door, Max starts going through Alex’s files and finds the last person Natasha spoke too, as well as the photo Alex had marked, then leaves out the window before the other detectives can break in. Later that night, Max runs into Mona, who plans on killing Max for Natasha’s death but Max manages to convince her that he is innocent and she agrees to help him find Owen Green, the last person Natasha called. They go to Owen’s apartment and try talking to him but he is hallucinating and ends up falling out a window to his death, though from the outside, it looks like a winged figure pulled him out. The pair then go to the tattoo parlor that Natasha got her work done at and ask the artist about the winged tattoo. He tells them that it is the symbol of the Valkyre from Norse mythology and meant as protection. Mona goes to see an arms dealer named Lincoln to asks what he knows about the tattoos, and he directs her to Lupino and his hideout, Ragna Rok. When she asks him about Max Payne, he warns her to stay away from him as Max is searching for something that nobody wants uncovered. Meanwhile, Max goes to his storage unit and starts going through Michelle’s old files from work when he notices some of them are missing. Getting the name of Michelle’s old supervisor from BB, Max goes to see Jason Colvin and begins interrogating him about the files. Jason tells him that Michelle was working on a government project trying to create a super soldier but the drug caused most of the subjects to go insane so it was cancelled. However, some of the subjects that did not go insane went after the scientists and killed them. Jason says he will agree to testify, pointing to an envelope that he says contains evidence, is Max will protect him from the man that kill Michelle. Max agrees and they leave the office but are confronted by a S.W.A.T. team, and Jason is shot almost immediately. Max fires back, killing the man that shot Jason, then grabs the envelope and manages to escape. Max shows the video to Mona, which explains the project’s use of a drug called Valkyr. Max says that Lupino, who is featured in the video, is the one that killed his wife and Natasha and he plans on going after him. Mona tells MAx where Lupino is hiding out and warns him not to go but he doesn’t listen. Making his way into Ragna Rok, Max kills Lupino’s men, then fights with Lupino but Lupino gets the upper hand and is about to kill Max when he is shot by BB. Max questions why BB is there but BB’s second in command, Joe, knocks Max unconscious. BB takes Max to the docks and explains how he killed Michelle because she discovered documents that showed Max was selling samples of Valkyr. BB and Joe plan to make it look like Max committed suicide and drowned but Max gets away and jumps in the river to escape. Almost succumbing to the freezing water, Max manages to make it to shore, then uses the vials of Valkyr that BB had placed on him to help fight off the effects of hypothermia, but he ends up experiencing some of the hallucinations. Meanwhile, Jim has called in the FBI to help investigate the events he witnessed at Aesir but one of the cops calls BB, who makes preparations to escape. BB and Joe make there way to the garage but Max shows up and kills the security guards and force BB and Joe to get back in the elevator. Heading back to their office, BB calls Nicole Horne and asks her to send the helicopter to the roof, saying the Michelle Payne thing has come back to haunt them. Meanwhile, Max continues to fight his way through the security guards but the hallucinations start to become too much and he is almost killed but Mona shows up and saves him. Trying to get Max to focus, she gives him a gun and tells him to finish the job, then goes after Joe, who is wiring the building to explode. She shoots Joe but when some more security guards show up, she gets into an elevator to escape. Meanwhile, Max burst into BB’s office but when he doesn’t see him, he again falls prey to the hallucinations. However, Joe manages to set off the explosives and the explosion manages to clear Max’s head. Max heads up to the roof, where he gets shot by BB but Max doesn’t die and he ends up killing BB. As Max drops to his knees on the roof, he sees a vision of Michelle and Rose but Michelle tells him “Not yet”, and he regains his senses and finds himself surrounded by a S.W.A.T. team. Some time later, Max walks into a bar and meets with Mona, who hands him a newspaper showing that Aesir’s stock is soaring, with Nicole Horne’s face on the paper, indicating that she is the one responsible for all of this.
Max Payne met with negative reviews from the critics, only earning a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “While it boasts some stylish action, Max Payne suffers severely from an illogical plot and overdirection.” Fans of the video game were just as critical of the movie, with many commenting on how sad game-to-movie translations have become. In spite of all the negative reviews, the movie still opened at # 1 and was a modest success, earning over $85 million off a $35 million budget.
For an action/revenge movie, this thing just seemed to drag. I mean, it is only an hour 40 but it felt like twice that long after I finished watching it. Honestly, I felt like the acting was only so-so, with some of the better performances coming from the smaller roles, such as Ludacris (Jim Bravura) and Olga Kurylenko (Natasha) doing really good. The main stars just didn’t seem to put much into their roles. The story was pretty decent, though I don’t know how much was changed from the video game’s back story. The action scenes were pretty good, though the whole hallucinations with the Valkyries and everything was a bit much and, unless it was part of the game, could have been left out as it kept sending the movie in a weird, unnecessary tangent. As an action movie, it’s not terrible and it is definitely not the worst video game movie out there, but it’s not something I would quickly recommend.
Rating: 2 out of 5