First-person shooter, third-person downer
October 22, 2008
Praising “Max Payne” for being the best big-screen adaptation of a video game that I’ve seen comes with two pretty hefty caveats.
One is that it doesn’t mean “Max Payne” is a good movie: It’s fairly watchable, no more. The other is that despite the amount of my adolescence and fairly adolescent adulthood that I’ve wasted playing video games, I’m not sure whether I’ve actually seen another movie based on one.
Appropriately enough, to review a movie based on the video game that introduced the “bullet time” gimmick, I traveled back through time (or the archives of two newspapers in Colorado, anyway) to 2001, when I started writing movie reviews to try to find one. I’ve seen a lot of movies that started out as comic books and children’s books, and movies that have spawned video games, and in “Beowulf” a movie that looked like the most fun video game ever. But I’m batting .000 on the likes of “Silent Hill,” “Final Fantasy,” the “Resident Evil” serial and the entire Uwe Boll canon.
Mentioning Boll reminds me to point out that “Max Payne” hasn’t prompted the wave of revulsion that has greeted some video game adaptations. Through my Internet Movie Database travels, I learned that “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and Harry Potter director Mike Newell is behind a big-screen “Prince of Persia” adaptation due out in 2010 ” which should be either great for the genre or terrible for Newell.
Until then, “Max Payne” stands as the high-water mark. It’s watchable, and a lot of thought clearly went into the production design, although the latter seems dreary by design, the former by accident.
The movie casts Mark Wahlberg in the title role, a defrocked New York police detective pursuing justice on the seedier side of a dark, dank Gotham, after the murder of his wife and baby. Snow’s constantly blowing, and it’s not the wet sludge that usually flies around on the East Coast but fluffy stuff that wouldn’t be out of place during winter in the Rockies ” or summer, considering all the cottonwood in Colorado.
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I deliberately didn’t say Wahlberg “plays” the title character because there’s not much fun in “Max Payne.” And moviegoers might feel entitled to a little fun from a movie with its basis in a first-person shooter with a dark sense of humor. Wahlberg portrays Payne with a blank look in his eyes and a grimace on his mouth. Andy Samberg’s send-up of Wahlberg talking to animals (see box), an Internet staple, really isn’t that funny, but it kind off grew on me after I saw the actor scowl his way through “Max Payne.”
The presence of Mila Kunis as a Russian assassin who likes to tromp through all that East Coast weather in high-heeled boots should brighten things up, but this isn’t “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and she’s on a much shorter leash. Rather, “Max Payne” seems to be aiming for the territory that the underrated “Constantine” (itself an adaptation of the “Hellblazer” comics) covered, with Norse demigods that might or might not be hallucinations in lieu of angels and demons fighting it out in the shadows. The result is all the charm of “The Punisher,” which is a testament to Max Payne’s seriousness about its noirishness. But it’s worth remembering that the dark, dour “Punisher” didn’t draw many viewers with a sunny disposition. In fact, it didn’t draw many viewers at all.
So while the super-serious “Max Payne” might represent an improvement, the directors might want to take a cue from the world of video games before they start that sequel ” which seems imminent, by the way: You’ve got to play to win.
Another reason Lake Tahoe Action loves actress Mila Kunis, from WENN, courtesy of the Internet Movie Database:
Kunis’ passion for baseball almost got her ejected from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ playoff game against the Philadelphia Phillies last week when her cursing upset the parents of a 10-year-old boy.
Kunis, a Dodgers fan, was so upset with her team’s efforts when the Phillies knocked them out of the postseason, she couldn’t hold her tongue.
And she had some apologizing to do when one family, sitting within earshot of her, was offended by her bad language.
Kunis explained: “The kid turns around, and his parents turn around, and I was like, ‘I’m so sorry, but come on.’
“They were like, ‘OK, weirdo.’ “
Kunis insists that cool Dodgers fans could learn a lot from trash-talking New York Yankees supporters: “It’s not necessarily that I’m for the Yankees … but the fans are so amazing.
“Everybody at Dodgers Stadium … was on their BlackBerries.”