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Max Payne Minimizes the Game

Published October 16, 2008 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox
Max Payne Poster Max Payne
I loved the idea of Max Payne the game. I only played a level or two of it but it was John Woo the game, until Stranglehold came out years later. You could dive with two guns and go into slow motion. Neat.

Review: Max Payne


The movie really minimizes that stuff, because what are you going to do? It's cool to be the first game to put players in control of a John Woo gunfight, but to be yet another movie waving double guns in slow motion, not so much.

Instead the movie focuses on noir thriller type of action, quick bursts that are hard to see, but get the job done. The point is this violence is not a lavish spectacle. People react to violence like real violence, as if it's horrific. It's not the action movie nonchalance. The operatics pick up in the third act, and it's still cool getting there.

It looks like a game. The snow blowing through each scene felt familiar from the game, but again it's been like seven years for me. Red flashes of light definitely feel game-like and the whole setting has Sin City lighting. Guess you can do that with actual sets.

There are lots of silent encounters with visual acknowledgments of what's going on. You infer it from the looks or actions. They even shoot many scenes from behind Max, so it looks like the third person game screen.



Wahlberg has the silent intensity, the loud gravitas and the badass moves to do the man in black role. His dialogue has no fluff. He cuts the crap, this is what's going on, done, all concise. Let everyone else babble exposition.

And that exposition is all stuff we've heard before. Turns out our brooding hero brings nothing but pain to those who care for him. And the real killer is still out there! The story is really just bleh, but it looks so cool you kind of stay with it.

The actors really do play the heart of their stories. It's high caliber talent which these sort of formula stories don't usually get. That almost makes it like this is the one that does it right after all those knockoffs. Almost. It's still the same old thing.

Finally, Max Payne does explode in big gunfights, where it seems like Max has auto-aim turned on because he hits everyone. There's one double gun shot and some cool slow motion moves. He picks up a shotgun too which I also remember from the game.

I think that makes Max Payne the best video game movie ever. Mortal Kombat was fun but this has more weight. Resident Evil was intense but this is much more artful. Tomb Raider had Angelina in spandex but we've seen her boobies elsewhere. So yay, Max Payne.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of 20th Century Fox
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