2 stars (out of 4)
(Caution: there’s a spoiler a few paragraphs down.)
First the good stuff, sans spoilers: The look of this movie is very noir-cool. New York, nighttime exteriors, light snow lazing horizontally. It’s effective, especially when a rainy scene pops up – I found myself hunching my shoulders, feeling that miserable 34-degree rain.
More good stuff: the rising action and climax are satisfactory (if overlong); a good honest burst of retaliatory fury.
Now the loophole: I didn’t realize going in that this movie is based on a video game; assumed it was based on a comic book (er, graphic novel). So shame on me if my expectations were too high.
Bad stuff No. 1, no spoiler: Mark Wahlberg in the title role. His acting always seems like that of a middle-school boy whose buddies are watching. He never goes all in. It’s as if he fears that one of the buddies will call him a pansy for acting and Wahlberg needs an out, needs to be able to say he wasn’t really trying.
Either that or he can’t act his way out of a paper bag.
Bad stuff No. 2, with spoiler: Before she was savagely killed, Max Payne’s sainted wife worked for … a pharmaceutical company. Now you tell me: what is the likelihood that a pharmaceutical company in a Hollywood movie will be a generally benificent enterprise, employing thousands and seeking to improve consumers’ lives, to ease their pain?
Did you say The likelihood is precisely zero? Right you are! The pharmaceutical company is … colluding with the Defense Department to create a drug that turns soldiers into bloodthirsty savages.
And you say: Of course that’s what the pharmaceutical company is doing.
Bad stuff No. 3, also with spoiler: Beau Bridges pops up in the movie playing what I call the Gene Hackman role (but you could also call it the Michael Caine role, the Donald Sutherland role, the Ned Beatty role …). His character, BB Hensley, is a trusted elder and mentor, a friend of Max Payne’s late father. Known Max all his life, dandled him on his knee, etc. Why, dear old BB is even head of security at the very pharmaceutical company that employed Max’s sainted wife, and nobody, repeat nobody, regrets her horrible death more than he.
Now you tell me: what is the likelihood that BB will turn out to be the bad guy, taking advantage of Max’s trust to funnel the hero toward a horrible fate?
And you say: The likelihood is precisely 100% that this will be the case.
Sigh. Don’t they even try to surprise us anymore?