This article is taken from Total Film Issue 145 which goes on sale 5 August in the UK. To see more Total Film content visitTotalFilm.com
Last time out, Mark Wahlberg was fighting a mighty wind (The Happening). He didn%26rsquo;t look too comfortable%26hellip; There was much brow-furrowing and air-gazing and short-sleeve shirt wearing%26hellip;For Max Payne, Wahlberg is ditching the elemental for the supernatural and, in a hangar-sized suite at London%26rsquo;s Mandarin Oriental, he%26rsquo;s comically at ease: slumped back on a sofa in trainers and worryingly tracksuit-like trousers.
He%26rsquo;s short and sweet but built like a boxer: all carved bulk and knotted sinew, with a fighter%26rsquo;s air of serene self-belief. After a 45-day stint in jail back in the %26rsquo;80s, Wahlberg toughed himself back into contention via hip hop, workout video production and an autobiography (at 21) %26ldquo;dedicated to my dick%26rdquo;.
%26ldquo;I was out of control,%26rdquo; he says. %26ldquo;I was lucky to get through it, but it made me stronger and, I hope, wiser. I had a lot of demons to fight. Maybe that%26rsquo;s why this character is my favourite role so far...%26rdquo;
Before Grand Theft Auto, before Manhunt, Max Payne sealed the idea that videogames could be more than jaunty interactive cartoons. They were for grown-ups, too. It%26rsquo;s doomy, cynical, brutal, brooding: a classical revenger%26rsquo;s tragedy played out in an uncaring gothic metropolis.
Max %26ndash; who narrates, neo-noir style %26ndash; is a cop haunted by the murder of his wife and baby daughter. Sent out to undercover pasture, grazing on cold cases, he sniffs a conspiracy behind a designer drug called Valkyr. Could its makers have fuelled %26ndash; or even instructed %26ndash; the killers of his family?
Max goes rogue, teams up with lady-assassin Mona Sax (Mila Kunis, in the film), infiltrates the Mob, gets framed for a colleague%26rsquo;s murder, takes counsel from a grizzled mentor (Beau Bridges), clashes with an internal affairs attack-dog (Chris %26lsquo;Ludacris%26rsquo; Bridges) and, eventually, swoops down on the ice-maiden business woman (Kate Burton) he believes is the root of the rot. He%26rsquo;s hell bent and %26ndash; judging by the twisted nightmare-visions of winged gargoyle beasties %26ndash; possibly hell bound...
%26ldquo;The hallucinations are a side-effect of this drug that%26rsquo;s been leaked onto the streets,%26rdquo; says Wahlberg. %26ldquo;A lot of the conspiracy comes from that: Max finds out that it%26rsquo;s a drug tested by the military to create super-soldiers, but someone has flooded the streets with it. It makes crack look like chocolate. He has to take it to keep up with the fight. But yeah, there%26rsquo;s a definite theme of Max fighting the devils inside. There%26rsquo;s a lot of action in this movie, but there%26rsquo;s also plenty of emotion and psychology. It goes pretty deep.%26rdquo;
Videogame movies are blessed/cursed with a pre-built but purist fanbase. So far, the blog bitching has targeted Max Payne%26rsquo;s director, Irishman John Moore, who made 2006%26rsquo;s limp redux of The Omen. But from what Total Film has seen, it%26rsquo;s the action-angst cocktail of Moore%26rsquo;s 2001 Bosnia war-thriller Behind Enemy Lines that makes him a tight fit for Payne. If he can mesh his lust for Tony Scott-style pyrotechnics with the game%26rsquo;s Matrix-apeing bullet-time balletics and get Wahlberg playing to his strengths %26ndash; taking Payne deeper than just feral vigilante %26ndash; Moore just might have the first videogame-based commercial-critical hit on his hands.