Latauro Trashes All Eighty-Five Minutes Of MAX PAYNE!!
Published at: Oct. 13, 2008, 9:42 p.m. CST by mrbeaks
Hi. I'm back. Have been incredibly busy with various things lately, so I apologise for my absence. (To the people who hate my writing: you're welcome. To the people who have never heard of me: it's okay, I'm a plant.) I've got a lot of new and upcoming Australian films I really want to talk about, and will hopefully be able to in the coming weeks. In the meantime, though, I have to tell you about MAX PAYNE.
Why? Because I suffered through it, and you shouldn't have to.
Even though I can't think of a single video game adaptation that has turned out well (though I will entertain arguments in favour of SUPER MARIO BROS.), I didn't think MAX PAYNE would necessarily be a total wash-out. My expectations were low -- very low -- and when they're low, I tend to have a good time. The power of low expectations actually allowed me to enjoy (on some level) Stallone's DRIVEN, so it's a pretty powerful pre-conditioning.
And it worked. For a little bit. Expecting absolutely nothing of any interest caused me to have some hope during the first twenty minutes.
Then the reality of the film began to seep in. Horrid dialogue, surprisingly bad acting across the board, and some really dodgy sound editing -- have you ever noticed sound editing before? ...me neither -- helped to drive an already sub-standard plot further into the ground.
I never have much interest in recounting a film's plot in my reviews, and having next-to-no memory of said plot doesn't help much. Payne's after the people who killed his wife, some people turn out to double-cross him, etc etc. It's so unbelievably dull, I'm struggling to find the energy to even write about it.
So, I'll instead discuss Mark Wahlberg. Or, at least, one of him, for there are two very similar-looking Mark Wahlbergs who otherwise bear no resemble to one another. There's Good Mark Wahlberg. Good Mark Wahlberg has done films such as BOOGIE NIGHTS, THREE KINGS, I HEART HUCKABEES and THE DEPARTED. In each of these films, he doesn't just stand there whilst the movie is good around him, he gives performances that elevate them. His addition is a good one. Good Mark Wahlberg is one of my favourite actors, and I have high anticipation levels for both THE LOVELY BONES and Darren Aronofsky's THE FIGHTER.
Bad Mark Wahlberg has made some very poor choices. Ditching Soderbergh to do the PLANET OF THE APES abortion was a big one, appearing in THE HAPPENING at what I hope is the nadir of M. Night Shyamalan's career was another. But, much like Good Mark Wahlberg, he's not a passive observer who just happens to be in a really bad film; he's actually bad in them. THE HAPPENING might almost have scraped through with a decent lead performance, but BMW (hey, awesome acronym!) showed up and, I honestly feel, plunged it further down into the abyss.
So, which turned up for MAX PAYNE? I've actually been struggling with that, and the more I think about it, the more I think there's a third Wahlberg. I was trying to avoid mentioning some of his movies because they didn't fit into that neat little description I had above, but there is a Neutral Mark Wahlberg, who has appeared in THE PERFECT STORM, THE ITALIAN JOB, and, now, MAX PAYNE. The character of Max Payne is a very silly one, and Wahlberg does his best, but he's always walking a thin line between intensity and parody. He never slips over into either one, but spends the whole film on that balancing wire. So, if nothing else, for managing to Not Suck in this of all films, I do give the man some credit.
Jumping back to the film itself, I think we also need to think very carefully about how much you want to pay homage to the source material. You need to know when doing something because it's familiar is going to help your film and when it's going to hinder your film. Example: my favourite bit in Lord of the Rings was always the scene with Tom Bombadil, but when I heard PJ's reason for leaving it out, I thought "You know what, you're absolutely right; that wouldn't work in the movie". Somebody needs to tell the people behind MAX PAYNE that the slow-mo option from the game may be great in that context, but looks fucking retarded in the film. I've never played the game, and I only found out that the slow-mo stuff is integral to the game after I got out of the cinema, so I'm sitting there thinking "What the hell is going on? who thought this was a good idea?". I'd like to show it to John Woo. I guarantee even he'd be going "Fucking get on with it!" after minute two of Payne pumping a shotgun.
My favourite part, however, is the end. The message throughout seems to be Drugs Are Bad, as everybody's life is getting ruined thanks to this exciting new drug that's out on the street. It's a drug that makes 1% of people into superhumans, and turns the rest of them crazy. Can you guess what the Act Three twist is? Max takes the drug and becomes a superhuman. I don't even know where to begin. Did they not think about this? Did they not think, "Hey, our market is boys between the ages of twelve and twenty-five, maybe we shouldn't be condoning drug use?". It's utterly irresponsible, and without any hint of self-awareness. Conservative Christians, if you'd like me to respect you at all, stop going after films that contain sex, and maybe take a swipe at the year's most socially reckless movie. If you have to take easy shots at the film industry, why not go after a film that actually has something to answer for?
Nobody comes out of this thing looking good. The damn thing's 85 minutes and you swear you've been in there for about two and a half hours by the time it's over. All the buzz you've been hearing about how this film is good is coming from people whose jobs depend on it making money. Do not give it the time of day.