Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blam! Blam! Reload your DVD player

Blowing off the shelves of the L.A. Public Library and onto your screens!

Max Payne (2008)

A run of the mill Punisher movie, and heaven help us, we’ve already had three run of the mill official Punisher movies. Now we’re dealing with Punisher knock-offs by way of video games. See what your poor viewing choices have done!

Mark Wahlberg stars as Max Payne, a cop whose wife and baby were murdered years ago by a trio of junkies and now, stuck in the department’s basement in the cold case unit, he prowls the streets at night searching for the last junkie who escaped getting capped in the ass that night, getting caught up in a conspiracy in the process.

Apparently the game’s story has been extremely simplified for the big screen. In the game, he changes from cop to DEA agent, and even infiltrates a mafia family in his search for the truth about his family’s murder. Max remains a cop throughout the movie, and the story is so simple you figure out right away who the baddie is (you could be half asleep while watching and still figure it out).

One major change made for the movie is that the designer drug, Valkyr, gives users the same major hallucinations of apocalyptic winged creatures, similar to mythic Valkyrie, swooping about. Good thing the hallucinations tie in with the name of the drug, if you saw giant Harvey-like bunnies, then Valkyr would suck as a name. The hallucination scenes give the movie a Constantine-like vibe, with Walhberg giving Keanu a run for the money in expression-deficit acting. You don’t know until ¾ of the way in that it’s NOT a supernatural horror you are watching.

Mark Wahlberg does his standard whispering, furrowed brow performance. I couldn’t help but think of the Saturday Night Live bit with Andy Samberg doing a pitch perfect imitation of this typical Wahlberg persona (see all the crappy Wahlberg movies, like Planet of the Apes and The Happening). I kept waiting for him to utter, “Say hi to your mother for me.” Someone on the interweb, get on this and re-dub this movie, okay?

Mila Kunis, who was fantastic in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is totally wasted here as a Russian mob chick whose sister is killed because of the drug. Kunis, born and raised in Ukraine, speaks a smattering of Russian in the movie, but fellow babe/fellow Ukrainian, Olga Kurylenko, who plays Mila’s sister, beats her in the accent department. They should have done the old standby of the twin sister and have Kurylenko play both sistahs.

When the story is pretty straightforward in something like this, you at least hope for "good kills," like in a zombie movie. Aside from a couple of the best shotgun blast deaths since Open Range the gun fu scenes were pretty standard stuff, meaning very disappointing. This might be expected in the movie's PG-13 version, but I watched the "unrated" version (a whole 3 minutes longer than the theatrical) and aside from some CGI blood, the gunplay sucked bullets, which is really sad as this is based on a third person shooter video game. I wonder if that irony is lost on director John Moore, who also helmed the recent remake of The Omen and the Owen Wilson actioner (oxymoron there) Behind Enemy Lines.

The movie was shot in Toronto, substituting for a perpetually snowing New York City ("Gimme a hot dog, eh."). One big problem with the movie was with the photography. Not only did they do the overused bleached out look where, for example, instead of green, you get a dull olive color, but a lot of shots had a Sin City green screen vibe, even though it was apparently shot on location and not a green screen stage. I think it was the constant CGI snowflakes that were drifting sideways onscreen in many scenes. It gave the movie a very artificial quality. Fitting perhaps for a movie based on a video game.

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