I have a friend who saw the poster for Max Payne a couple of months in advance and got rather excited. She had worked out from the poster that it was some sort of hard-boiled cop or detective drama and was gritty and violent. As a hard-boiled fiction fan, who also liked Mark Whalberg, she squealed that it was almost her perfect film. I informed her it was based on a video-game and her face dropped like Chev Chelios at the end of Crank. Without the bounce.
So, yet again on this list, I should have known better. Except actually all the points made by my friend were correct. Max Payne was a videogame set in the milieu of hard-boiled fiction. Most notable about the game was its graphic novel styled cut scenes, with a strong voice-over narrative and a story which was involving and, whilst clichéd, compelling and interesting. It also had lots and lots of shooting (as befits a first person shooter). From run down hotel, to subway station, to fetish clubs it had the nouse to keep the visuals interesting, gameplay challenging and a good storyline. A good, developing storyline is something very few videogame adaptations have had. Rather they tend to mix up premise with storyline, bundling half-hundredweight of set-up and exposition with a distinctly flat narrative arc. With Whalberg there wasan actor who could do gritty, and even appear to be a person whose name really was Max Payne. This could have been the first truly good videogame adaptation.
Hence this coming at number three. I kind of went just to see where they had gone wrong, the reviews had already told be it was lousy. And it was lousy too. They had kept the outline of the games plot in places, but seemed to have removed any active role in investigating it from the lead character. Instead Max scowls through one bullying sequence to another without ever really articulating
a) His loss for his dead wife or child
b) His loss of his partner
c) Any feeling for any of the currently living people in the film
d) Any understanding of any language used in the film
None of which would be fine but could be covered if the movie made up for it with its violent action sequences. The game was notable for its innovative use of bullet time, now old hat in the cinema, but still a technique which can give otherwise meaningless gunfire some sense of choreography. However Max Payne tiptoes through the film mainly punching people, and only really getting down to shooting in the last third. All the time the film teases with yet another location from the game, where anyone who remembers the game will also remember and awesome shootout. So we miss the subway gun battle, the docks sniper piece, the cat and mouse through the hotel, the bizarre fetish club. All of these would have been too much, ignoring everyone one of them with a tease and more talking is unforgivable.
Max Payne was Max Tedium.