Mark Wahlberg is an Oscar-nominated actor. But let’s be specific about that: he’s an Oscar-nominated supporting actor. Cast in a quality ensemble, he soars (see Boogie Nights, Three Kings, The Departed). He just can’t carry a movie in a bucket (don’t see Shooter, Rock Star, The Happening…).
Some cruel chemistry, then, to see Wahlberg starring in that most abortive of all movie sub-genres: the videogame adap. As vigilante cop Max Payne, Wahlberg certainly looks depressed. Maybe it’s the weather, constantly snowing or drumming with rain as he trudges around through gloomy neo-noir New York.
Maybe it’s the fact his wife and child have been killed and he’s lost his own life to a fruitless search for their murderers. Maybe he’s still pissed off at Andy Samberg’s amazing Saturday Night Live impersonation.
Even Quantum Of Solace hottie Olga Kurylenko can’t cheer him up. (As with Hitman, she has no luck with sexually dysfunctional videogame alpha males.) “What was her name?” asks Olga, as Wahlberg scowls questioningly. “The girl from the boring story you want to tell me.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking the rest of Beau Thorne’s debut script has any other smart lines in it. Clunking around a botched military drug that turns users into deranged killing machines who hallucinate about winged monsters, director John Moore’s movie is resolutely humourless and witless.
Shame, because Max Payne might have been different: a movie based on a videogame based on the movies. The influential thirdperson shooter was incredibly cinematic, all dark characterisation and bullet-time gunplay.
But in post-Matrix cinema, slo-mo firefights are now tawdry cliché and Moore’s red screen-flashes are a lame approximation of ‘damage’ hits. We’re left with short spurts of stylish action: Wahlberg taking out a SWAT team with a handgun and a cool tracking shot that reveals a demon hauling a man through a window to his death. Can’t help wondering if Wahlberg wishes it was him. Well, or Andy Samberg…
By Jonathan Crocker