‘Max Payne’: a glorious disaster

Chandy Clemens

Max Payne is like the Hindenburg: a glorious disaster. The critical consensus has been overwhelmingly negative, but perhaps too brutal. Yes, it’s a wreck, but take a second and you’ll see the whole film as an exercise in aesthetic cinema and hypnotism.
Mark Wahlberg couldn’t have been cast in a role more suited to his demeanor and style. Straight from the storyline of the Rockstar video game from which the film is based, Payne was a budding detective in the NYPD and an average Joe on the side: husband to a successful businesswoman and father to a newborn infant. Happiness, however, turns sour when Max comes home to discover the lifeless body of his wife and infant.

After killing two of the murderers at the scene of the crime, three years later he has continued on an obsessive hunt to track down the third man responsible for his family’s slaughter. Through the corrupt inner-dealings of a pharmaceutical company called Aesir, a hallucinogenic tactical war drug, and winged creatures of haunting magnitude called Valkyries, Max finds himself closer and closer to unveiling the truth behind his family’s unjust murder. But, in all it’s entirety, Max Payne is a conundrum.

What Max Payne lacks in coherency and underdevelopment, it makes up for in visuals. Director John Moore dishes up Gothic eye-candy with the usage of dark textures and tones to mirror the ravaged emotions of Max Payne’s inner psyche. With the city masked in shadows and shades of black and grey, reminiscent of Sin City, Max Payne quenches the pallate of any movie going individual who can appreciate the cinematic art when they see it. The sequences where we are shown the hallucinogenic effects of Valkyr, the war drug, are hypnotic, plaguing the viewer with the hellish nightmare of a post-apocalyptic future ravaged by fire and blood-curdiling Valkyries. Call it eerie, but one’s eyes will be transfixed to the screen.
Mark Wahlberg did all he could to inherit the role. He looked angry, he screamed like a crazed man out for vengeance, and he kicked some tail. However, his narrow performance was only due to the underdevelopment of his character. When you’re handling a character like Max Payne who is hate-driven and unsympathetic in every respect, one must break the mold and show us the raw essentials that make up such a sullen man. There’s room for improvement on so many levels to make Max Payne a thriving franchise if it is destined to be one. Unfortunately, it just started off on the wrong foot.