It's theoretically still true that Mark Wahlberg is a promising, talented actor, but his movie output this year has mostly served as argument to send him away forever. The Happening and now Max Payne have featured Wahlberg as a blank-eyed everyman trying, and failing, to make sense out of the silliest plot possible. This time the villain isn't trees but black winged demons, and Wahlberg at least gets to play with some firearms, but it's all as meandering and boring as The Happening, without the benefit of a message.
For a movie based on a video game that's entirely about shooting people, Max Payne is surprisingly skimpy on action. Instead there's a lot of time spent setting up atmospherics, watching snow swirl around the ink-black Manhattan settings and zooming in on Max's face, in shadow, as he remembers the murder of his wife and child years earlier. He hunts the police department's Cold Case files for answers, and accidentally gets a clue when he brings home a beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko, doing nothing to prove her worth as an upcoming Bond girl) who is murdered after she leaves his apartment. The tattoo on her arm matches that of one of Max's wife's killers, and with that clue the hunt is on.
Max teams up with the woman's sister Mona (Mila Kunis, 100% charmless) to investigate and brandish weapons, and before too long they find out-- surprise, surprise!-- that a big evil company is actually involved. Max's wife found out some info about a top-secret drug, and the pharmaceutical company that employed her killed her to shut her up. Beau Bridges and Chris O'Donnell show up as evil suits who get the blame, and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges is also wandering around as a police department internal investigator. As for the winged demon creatures, who show up to attack various bad guys, I'll let you find out that nutty explanation for yourself.
There's actually a pretty cool shoot-out scene in an office building, and some buildings blow up near the end, but mostly Max Payne is grim and dark and brooding, and not in the good way. Bullets slow down for effect, beautiful women stroll in and out, and John Moore seems to be trying to amp up the production design rather than make a story worth watching. What ever happened to action movies that were fun, where you could get a little thrill out of watching explosions and someone cracked a joke once in a while? I guess Max's psychological torment is supposed to make his character deep, but it makes the movie no fun at all. It's probably more satisfying to play the video game yourself, since at least you'll celebrate your victory, unlike mopey Max.
The movie gets an extra half a star for its production design, which at least looks good, and for having the decency not to run longer than two hours. But other than that it's a big nothing, not even hokey enough to watch for the sake of laughing at it.
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