In its own haunting way, Max Payne is beautiful to watch. I knew that director John Moore had utilized some new digital technology while filming, but I didn't quite expect the movie as a whole to be so visually mesmerizing. This world never strays from its grainy state, everything awash in a blue-gray sheen — except for striking spots of bright red, and sometimes twinkly orange sparks — and there is near-constant precipitation usually large snowflakes swirling through icy air.
In other aspects (you know, the actual story and stuff), there's not too much to chat about. The story is fairly simplistic and the visual symbolism of this sad, dark world is obvious (in his memories of his past life, the world is bright and lovely, his miserable present-day life is only cold darkness). This isn't a subtle film by any means. But while there's plenty of violence and gunfire, somehow it doesn't seem to be fetishizing it. There's a greater goal to be met, and violence is par for the course in reaching this goal. To see why else I kinda liked this movie, read more.
Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) has been searching for his wife's murderers for three years, and one night he meets the sexy Natasha (Olga Kurylenko) who leads him into a sinister world of drugs which provides more clues toward solving the mystery. Max even starts sniffing around the company where his wife worked alongside a kindly older friend of Max's family, BB Hensley (Beau Bridges). Before long, Natasha winds up dead with certain details linking her death to Max's wife's, and Natasha's sister Mona (Mila Kunis) joins Max in his hunt for answers and revenge.
Mark Wahlberg is tasked with playing what he does quite well: a hot-headed, broody guy with not too many lines. Mila Kunis plays the badass chick convincingly, and Ludacris is more or less OK in his role as a tough guy detective with some sassy one-liners (though I'm wary of seeing him take on meatier roles). No real acting chops are required for this movie (the acting's not really central to the film's success), though Beau Bridges puts his all into it anyway, and comes out the best of the bunch. He's got that fatherly businessman-with-shady-secrets thing down pat. We see Marky Mark the most in the movie, but it was Bridges's performance that I kept thinking about.
I might've liked the ending more if they hadn't taken such pains to ensure there will be a sequel. I understand the urge to do that (studios love nothing more than an endless number of unnecessary sequels), but it seems like a lame move here. It also felt like the movie ended a few times before it finally ended. Still, the journey getting there is captivating from start to finish, and extremely cool to watch.
Photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox