“Oh, he’s shot the shit out of it!” insists Wahlberg. “I’m telling ya. You’re not going to be disappointed. John has pushed this thing so, so far. The action is incredible! Anyone who says, ‘Looks a bit like The Matrix...’ C’mon! All the slowdown stuff is in the game. And they’ve been trying to make this film for so long. They haven’t just ripped off The Matrix. They waited until the technology has been available to do it properly.
"We’ve been shooting at 1000 frames per second. And I’m not on any wires, either! All the jumping and firing and flipping and landing on my head... That’s all real. We shot it all on film, man! We weren’t doing motion-capture then sitting around waiting for some studio to deliver the special-effects shots. It’s for real. Well, maybe just a little greenscreen for the stuff you really can’t do – like blowing up the roof of a city-centre building…”
All of this in snowbound Toronto, dead of winter... Despite an epic seven-day blizzard grounding the shoot, the Omen guy delivered the movie on time and on budget...
“At first, I felt like I was just gonna do some videogame thing,” says Burton, daughter of Richard. “But John Moore excited everyone by having a much bigger ambition. He added emotion to the action. He’d make even the smallest little scenes feel crucial. He and Mark created a sense of camaraderie. We needed that warmth because it was freezing out there!
"I did a great scene where – as the woman who may or may not be behind the conspiracy – I was wearing this Cruella de Vil-style fur coat and sitting in a limo, arrogant and imperious. And the others had to freeze their butts off outside...”
“Oh, it was so cold!” shudders Beau Bridges. “The whole thing happens in a snowstorm so I think they purposely wanted to film it there to catch a mood. They wanted a chilly, on-the-street feel – with real steam coming out of our mouths. They got a lot more than that – and they couldn’t use the real snow, anyway. It doesn’t look right on film. But the weather problems helped, in some ways.
"John shot some dark, strong stuff. There’s a terrific scene in a graveyard, where Mark goes to the wake of his ex-partner, even though he’s suspected of involvement in his death. Nelly Furtado plays the guy’s grieving wife and she smacks Mark in the face – gives him a real crack! Nothing fake about it. Wahlberg was happy to go all the way.”
“How about the scene with Chris [O’Donnell] and Mark?” chimes in Burton. “Chris is my right-hand man and they have a big fight in my office. It’s really frenzied. It feels like they’re working out a lot of frustration. It’ll go down as one of the all-time great fight scenes.”
Wobble Number One... Despite the murder and grief and face-slaps and life-or-death scuffles and jagged ambience of snowflake-sprinkled menace, Moore and Wahlberg have shot Max Payne to be broad, bloodless, teen-friendly...
“But that’s great, man!” insists Ludacris. “Not a problem for me at all. It just means that the videogame fans and the adults can all go see it. I play this internal affairs guy who keeps tabs on Max. I get to boss everyone around and – better – be dominant over Mark Wahlberg! We have a lot of fun together – it’s cagey and rough. OK, so there’s no swearing, but that doesn’t mean the dialogue isn’t good. We shot some amazing action scenes!
“Just because it might be PG-13, doesn’t mean there won’t be action and excitement. I did a great scene with Mark in a building where a bomb has just activated the sprinkler system and we’re stalking each other in this weird kind of rain, guns drawn. It’s awesome! I tell ya, videogame movies get a bad rap, but this is gonna blow that stereotype right out of the water!”
“It’s like Sin City with a little more reality,” says Wahlberg. “But why swear? What are you trying to prove? Too much swearing would make it less – not more – adult. There was no need for me to drop the ‘F’-bomb, y’know? John and I just made sure that Max has an arsenal of weapons and cool dialogue – which is far more powerful than just cussing all the time. Neither of us wanted to hide behind bad language. We just wanted as many people to see it as possible.”
But there is gunplay, assassins, fist-fights, drugs, death, sex... In censor-board terms, there are definitely ‘adult themes’...