Late last night I watched the 2008 film noir Max Payne (directed by John Moore, starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, and Beau Bridges). It was the third time that I have seen the film, and I seem to like it more and more with each consecutive viewing. While I enjoyed certain aspects of the film initially, I felt it had some glaring faults as a film noir and as a tribute to one of my favorite video games. My arguments were many and varied, and I had trouble pinpointing what peeved me the most, but now that I have had some years to digest I am ready to tell the world what I think of the film noir Max Payne.
Let us begin with that which was lacking:
Max Payne needs his pain killers! I couldn’t believe that there was not one single reference to painkillers in the entire film (and believe me there was ample opportunity). Also, Mila Kunis needs a different make-up artist, because she is a sexy and vibrant young woman who they have managed to make look like a goblin in the first few scenes. Now, I admit that the first time I saw this film noir I thought she looked even worse (this most recent time I realized its not as bad as I remembered it), but she was not the femme fatale that she could have been. Had I been in charge I would have eased up on the eye-liner and given her some bright red lipstick. Next, The film noir needed at least two more dark monologues. They start with a bang, (which I will talk about later) and then they never come back to the Max Payne defining inner monologue. This lack of narrative was a gross oversight on the part of the screenwriter, because this script could have been magical. And finally, Jack Lupino needed more character development and less wordless looming. In the video game, Lupino is so scary because you learn that he is a Satan worshiping psychopath who believes he is immortal. In the film, they try to make him scary by having him stand on cold rooftops without his shirt on (not very effective). With all the time that they wasted on showing him loom over the city scape, they could have been developing his character by giving him lines.
things they did right:
The first monologue was chilling, and Mark Wahlberg was a great choice for Max Payne. I was absolutely blown away by the opening lines of the film noir, but when they never came back to the same overly stylized Max Payne scripting I was utterly disappointed. I think that they were afraid that the script would be too cheesy if they mirrored the level of drama in the video game, but that’s the point! The heavy handed drama is what makes Max Payne who he is! Next, Olga Kurylenko was an excellent femme fatale. Her part is short lived, but she tip-toes on the edge of lust and danger with deadly skill. Also, the drug Valkyr was portrayed in a way that far surpassed the video game noir series. The ‘snowflake to embers’ effect was unbelievably cool, and the valkyries themselves in all their demonesque glory were amazing. Lastly, all of the action sequences were top notch in your face violent. The sets and special effects were all blu-ray worthy, amen.
“There’s an army of bodies under this river, people who ran out of time, out of friends. I could feel the dead down there, reaching up to welcome me as one of their own. It was an easy mistake to make.” -Mark Wahlberg as Max Payne
Some interesting noir definition moments:
This film noir has two femme fatales: Mona Sax and her sister Natasha. Mona plays the partner/equal/confidant role in the story, where Natasha plays the sexy/lusty/dangerous role. Interesting choice on the part of the film makers, because normally the femme fatale in any noir would have all of these attributes (and in the game, Mona and Natasha are identical twins so go figure). Also, Max Payne has a classic Redemption Theme. Max is attempting to redeem the irredeemable, for even if he successfully finds and punishes their killer, his wife and child will remain dead (and thus beyond his power to redeem). But the power of his story lies in the idea that if he can obtain revenge, that vengeance will redeem their memory and bring him closure. Max Payne is a classic film noir. (I purchased my blu-ray from Amazon.com) (also, Max Payne got 16% on rottentomatoes.com and that is where I got these film noir images).