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The UnPopular Opinion: Max Payne

Aug. 22, 2012by:

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THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

**** SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Time is an interesting factor to add in to the mix of movie judgement.  Much of the... time, time can slowly dampen my enjoyment of a movie. There are quite a few films that soured in my own estimation after time ate away the gloss and revealed the barren beast beneath - several of them have actually already been covered previously by this column, and since I agree with the opinion there would be little point in writing up my own rendition.  But then there are those, well, times when time can actually do a few favors for a movie.  It can strip away the clouds of nostalgia and reveal that what you thought was an abomination on the face of cinema is, in fact, not.  And yes, I am willing to state publicly that this happened with me and MAX PAYNE.

Upon another viewing, I will say that the movie is not the shitstorm that I've often heard it made out to be.  Nor is it the bland, hollow cinematic void I've also heard it made out to be.  My own opinion had originally leaned towards that of the latter, but now that I am older and (in theory) wiser and removed from the apathy of that first viewing inspired by an attachment to the source material I find it to be an entertaining movie with a few fresh thematic and cinematic ideas of its own to boot.

Max Payne unpop pic 1

And this. Olga Kurylenko is definitely the way to go for any and all your actress needs.

Let's get this out of the way now: there is a gaping Mark Wahlberg-sized hole in the middle of this movie.  He may have been trying to go for the 'exhausted hard-boiled cop" air, but he comes off more as "dead" at worst and "walking mannequin" at best.  Much has been made of his performance, or lack thereof, so I won't go too much into it here.  Suffice it to say, we all know Wahlberg has done immeasurably better work than MAX PAYNE.  Thankfully, his lackluster efforts here don't actually really detract from the rest of the movie. 

Which is a strange thing to say, because in most cases an energetically absent lead performance would make it difficult to connect to that character's journey and thereby the events of the story.  But the world of MAX PAYNE is so particular, the plot and aesthetic so stylized, that the movie survives rather well through the strength of the world as its main character rather than Payne himself.  Payne may be meant to be our hook into the story and its world, but in a strange and (no doubt unintended) subversion the story and its world end up being our hook into him.  And considering his rather extraordinary journey, it's actually not a bad way for the movie to be.

In past columns I've spoken negatively about the method of style-over-substance, understanding its appeal to some but firmly finding that it held little appeal for me.  And being style-over-substance is yet another of the many complaints leveled at MAX PAYNE.  Call me crazy (which you very well might), but I think it actually works in this case.  The style-over-substance nature of this storytelling, as opposed to just being "cool for the sake being cool" as it is with most examples of the label, instead refers to an extremely specific and affective visual sense that works as metaphor to tell a story far better than the text as is ever could.  The style overshadows the substance, because there is instead substance to be found within the style.

Max Payne unpop pic 2

"Remember when you were a kid and you'd hold your breath when you run past the graveyard? Just leave that man alone."

There's a message to MAX PAYNE, and an acute observation or two about the natures of greed, power, despair, and those monsters that masquerade as humans.  There's even a through-line meditation on the theme of how grief can deconstruct a person's soul, something viscerally realized through the hallucinations of certain characters and the violence Max inflicts on both himself and others.  This is not to say that MAX PAYNE is the TREE OF LIFE of action movies/video game adaptations - this is more to say that I find there to be substance buried in the style, rather than separate from it.

Insofar as pure storytelling goes MAX PAYNE is also structured in an engaging fashion, with Max's mystique and the questions surrounding how he became the way he is (both in terms of his soul and floating nearly dead in a river) solidly built up throughout the movie.  The screenwriter deserves a small medal for translating the original video game, itself an entertaining hodge-podge of homage without a great deal of weight beyond its relatively novel use of true tragedy, into something new with an identity all its own that also works insofar as traditional movie structure goes.  The action delivers in terms of being entertaining, the design and art aesthetic is pretty f***ing cool, and the movie is a pleasure to look at with some thematic meat beneath.  Is the final product a bit muddled in relation to what it could have been? Perhaps.  But there's a lot that they got right with this one, and I'm glad to have found that subsequent viewings don't diminish my enjoyment of this flick in any way.

Max Payne unpop pic 4

"There's an army of bodies under this river - criminals, people who ran out of time, out of friends...I could feel the dead down there, just below my feet, reaching up to welcome me as one of their own. It was an easy mistake to make."

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to ajstepenberg@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you wish, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

Extra Tidbit: Mark Wahlberg didn't play the video games prior to filming. Perhaps things might have turned out a bit differently performance-wise if he had.
Source: JoBlo.com

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+11
8:18AM on 08/22/2012

Max Payne is a horrible horrible horrible movie

I feel like the director nailed the look of Max Payne. The atmosphere was perfect but that's not enough to make a movie watchable. The writing was atrocious and the acting was terrible. I can usually take or leave Mark Wahlberg, he's not the worst actor in the world but he's by no means the best. However, he ruins Max Payne. he didn't understand the character at all and what was with that fake gravel voice he put on? I know he was trying to sound like Max Payne but he failed miserably!!
I feel like the director nailed the look of Max Payne. The atmosphere was perfect but that's not enough to make a movie watchable. The writing was atrocious and the acting was terrible. I can usually take or leave Mark Wahlberg, he's not the worst actor in the world but he's by no means the best. However, he ruins Max Payne. he didn't understand the character at all and what was with that fake gravel voice he put on? I know he was trying to sound like Max Payne but he failed miserably!! I would like to see a Max Payne movie done right. When I played the video game, I remember thinking wow, this is a great story and would lend itself well to the big screen. It seems like it would be very hard to screw up such timeless tale but the team behind Max Payne managed to ruin it. This movie was so disappointing...
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10:54PM on 08/22/2012

DISRESPECTFUL TO FANS OF THE GAME

"The screenwriter deserves a small medal for translating the original video game"

You can't really think that can you??? Locations that should have been epic (Cold Steel, Aesir) were squandered or deleted altogether. Story was an absolute snooze-fest compared to the game. The characters were completely miscast. I love Mila, but seriously, how was she cast as Mona Sax??? Especially with Olga (who would have made perfect sense as Mona) cast to play her more immature sister. Awful all around.
"The screenwriter deserves a small medal for translating the original video game"

You can't really think that can you??? Locations that should have been epic (Cold Steel, Aesir) were squandered or deleted altogether. Story was an absolute snooze-fest compared to the game. The characters were completely miscast. I love Mila, but seriously, how was she cast as Mona Sax??? Especially with Olga (who would have made perfect sense as Mona) cast to play her more immature sister. Awful all around. You are right about the style though... it looks fantastic. I put it on once in a while for some background noise and to have something pretty to look at, but as a movie, it fails miserably. An absolute shame, as this film should have been dummy-proof.
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1:47PM on 08/22/2012

Plain & simply, ANYONE who played the game knows how much they left out and how much better it could've been....

The director maybe right about the atmosphere or visuals, but when you're making a movie out of one of the most cinematic game out there, that just not enough. More so when only from the storytelling point, they left out SO MANY THINGS! Each and every scenes & situations (with dialogues!) are already there, all they had to do was condense it a bit and make it real life, but they even failed at that. Sure, for a non-gamer it might be a forgettable oneoff time pass, but they're not the target
The director maybe right about the atmosphere or visuals, but when you're making a movie out of one of the most cinematic game out there, that just not enough. More so when only from the storytelling point, they left out SO MANY THINGS! Each and every scenes & situations (with dialogues!) are already there, all they had to do was condense it a bit and make it real life, but they even failed at that. Sure, for a non-gamer it might be a forgettable oneoff time pass, but they're not the target audience. I'm a Max Payne fanatic and I don't even WANT TO think how much I would like this movie had I not played the game, simply bacause since the early days of 2001 I was enticipating with baited breath for a badass adaptation, and this movie just crushed me. This movie failed on the very basic level of an adaptation: to satisfy (& honor) its builtin fans. And truth be told, when a virtual character and his interactions with the game world comes off MORE realistic than its real life counter part and his interactions, you know the movie is BAD.
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1:36PM on 08/22/2012

I'm Calling Bullshit Here

So Marky Mark should have played the video games to dive deeper into the character, but you'll put aside your nostalgia for the gaming franchise when reviewing this piece of shit? C'mon dude. "Max Payne 3" is a playable movie, and many have docked it points for that. But compared to this film, and honestly, this article, I'm content with that over this.
So Marky Mark should have played the video games to dive deeper into the character, but you'll put aside your nostalgia for the gaming franchise when reviewing this piece of shit? C'mon dude. "Max Payne 3" is a playable movie, and many have docked it points for that. But compared to this film, and honestly, this article, I'm content with that over this.
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+5
11:32PM on 08/22/2012

A total bullshit movie utterly disrespecting fans

Well Alejandro, seems your opinion is very unpopular.
Well Alejandro, seems your opinion is very unpopular.
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+5
6:24PM on 08/22/2012
I don't understand why they can't make comic book and video game movies better, I mean the story is already written, why not make the movie exactly like the source material that everybody loves. Max Payne already had the story in easy to understand graphic novel format, so it just pisses me off the more I hear about this movie because it's nowhere close to the game I personally fell in love with.
I don't understand why they can't make comic book and video game movies better, I mean the story is already written, why not make the movie exactly like the source material that everybody loves. Max Payne already had the story in easy to understand graphic novel format, so it just pisses me off the more I hear about this movie because it's nowhere close to the game I personally fell in love with.
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6:27PM on 08/22/2012
And Jon Hamm looks more like Max Payne than Mark Wahlberg, they went with Mark because he was an A-list name to attach to this awful piece of shit movie.
And Jon Hamm looks more like Max Payne than Mark Wahlberg, they went with Mark because he was an A-list name to attach to this awful piece of shit movie.
+5
11:42AM on 08/22/2012

No.

There's not enough time in the world, and effort in my hands to describe how, where and when this movie went wrong. It would be easier to say 'The aesthetic was good' and just assume EVERYTHING else about the movie was utterly utterly off the mark.

A completely gutted and total dumbing down of the games storyline, every character tragically mis-cast, half the characters from the game missing, one action scene, one horrendous slow motion effect, no witty dry and metaphor ridden internal
There's not enough time in the world, and effort in my hands to describe how, where and when this movie went wrong. It would be easier to say 'The aesthetic was good' and just assume EVERYTHING else about the movie was utterly utterly off the mark.

A completely gutted and total dumbing down of the games storyline, every character tragically mis-cast, half the characters from the game missing, one action scene, one horrendous slow motion effect, no witty dry and metaphor ridden internal monologue, I could go on and on and on. All this movie had to do was find a good actor for Max (or you know...fucking cast James McCaffrey), the rest was so fantastically handled in the game that most of the job was done for the film-makers, but they somehow managed to balls everything about it up. I was looking forward to a movie version of Payne since 2001, there are not enough words in the world to describe how disappointed and angry this film makes me.
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1:24PM on 08/22/2012

Awful movie

What I missed most was the tragic love story that took place between Max and Mona. The games were incredibly dark and action filled, but had the classic noir love story that Sam Lake nailed perfectly. The film had nothing going for it.
What I missed most was the tragic love story that took place between Max and Mona. The games were incredibly dark and action filled, but had the classic noir love story that Sam Lake nailed perfectly. The film had nothing going for it.
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11:23AM on 08/22/2012

Just awful

Max Payne already had a pretty good story and hell, they could even use the graphic novel style cutscenes for inspiration while filming, like Snyder did with 300. But the movie we got was simply not Max Payne. Where was all the bravado and those awesome internal monologues and the noir aesthetic? And where were all the stylish, slow motion gun fights that the games are all about? There was only one slow motion sequence in the movie, if I remember correctly, and it was absolutely awful. You CAN
Max Payne already had a pretty good story and hell, they could even use the graphic novel style cutscenes for inspiration while filming, like Snyder did with 300. But the movie we got was simply not Max Payne. Where was all the bravado and those awesome internal monologues and the noir aesthetic? And where were all the stylish, slow motion gun fights that the games are all about? There was only one slow motion sequence in the movie, if I remember correctly, and it was absolutely awful. You CAN make an inteligent action movie with awesome gun fights thrown in for good measure, Equilibrium has proven that. Oh, and what the hell was up with the "Valkyries" showing up during bad Valkyr trips? I know about symbolism and all, but just look at the last image on the article: does that look like a scene out of a gritty crime drama? It looks like something out of Constantine, heck, you could probably stick it into your Incredible Screencap Challenge and I can guarantee you that most people would guess Constantine. The movie's director, writer and even its star didn't get Max Payne at all, and that was the problem.

PS: has anyone else noticed that Olga Kurilenko has done a lot of movies in a short period of time (this one, Hitman, Quantum OF Solace) where she practically throws herself at the male protagonist and gets shot down almost immediately? If I am not mistaken, she holds the dubious of being the only "official" Bond girl that James Bond hasn't had sex with! What gives?
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7:59AM on 08/23/2012
I don't hate this movie like most, but I don't enjoy it either. The action is well staged and the movie looks good, but what the 'angels' turn out to be is completely underwhelming and the final fight is a letdown for me.
I don't hate this movie like most, but I don't enjoy it either. The action is well staged and the movie looks good, but what the 'angels' turn out to be is completely underwhelming and the final fight is a letdown for me.
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4:09AM on 08/23/2012

Cant..

..say i agree.
I think the film was dreadful.
..say i agree.
I think the film was dreadful.
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10:43PM on 08/22/2012

re future installments

X-men-first class
Green Lantern
Dark Knight Rises
Tron;Legacy
X-men-first class
Green Lantern
Dark Knight Rises
Tron;Legacy
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-1
6:27PM on 08/22/2012
Stupid double post
Stupid double post
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-3
6:04PM on 08/22/2012
It's not a masterpiece for sure but at least it deserves some credit for style. I found it interesting at the very least.

Doesn't deserve much hate IMO.

BTW.. how about tackling Donnie Darko, Alejandro? (I never understood the love for that movie)
It's not a masterpiece for sure but at least it deserves some credit for style. I found it interesting at the very least.

Doesn't deserve much hate IMO.

BTW.. how about tackling Donnie Darko, Alejandro? (I never understood the love for that movie)
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3:56PM on 08/22/2012
I'll agree that the movie itself isn't all that bad, it's definitely not a great film or anything but it's not the absolute garbage people make it out to be. Now if you are comparing it to the game than it is awful, but hey people let Resident Evil slide on that aspect and Max Payne is a whole lot closer to the game than those shit movies. I'm glad someone else liked it though.
I'll agree that the movie itself isn't all that bad, it's definitely not a great film or anything but it's not the absolute garbage people make it out to be. Now if you are comparing it to the game than it is awful, but hey people let Resident Evil slide on that aspect and Max Payne is a whole lot closer to the game than those shit movies. I'm glad someone else liked it though.
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6:26PM on 08/22/2012

FINALLY!

Someone that believes in it the way I do! It definitely isn't a masterpiece but for me, it brought back a bit of nostalgia from playing the first game. The movie did let me down a little bit but I still appreciated it for what it was. The first time I saw the trailer, I was sold. Moore did capture the atmosphere of Max's world. It's too bad that the movie wasn't executed efficiently all the way. 6/10
Someone that believes in it the way I do! It definitely isn't a masterpiece but for me, it brought back a bit of nostalgia from playing the first game. The movie did let me down a little bit but I still appreciated it for what it was. The first time I saw the trailer, I was sold. Moore did capture the atmosphere of Max's world. It's too bad that the movie wasn't executed efficiently all the way. 6/10
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