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MAX PAYNE, 2008
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MAX PAYNE
Movie Review
Directed by John Moore
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Ludacris, Beau Bridges, Marianthi Evans
Review by Jen Frankel



SYNOPSIS:

Coming together to solve a series of murders in New York City are a DEA agent (Wahlberg) whose family was slain as part of a conspiracy and an assassin (Kunis) out to avenge her sister's death. The duo will be hunted by the police, the mob, and a ruthless corporation.

REVIEW:

Max Payne is another of those films that's neither as good or as bad as many critics will have it.

It's a well-executed action flick in the vein of Sin City or any other number of slightly surreal crime thrillers. But despite a great visual grammar and a fairly strong performance from Mark Wahlberg, there's really nothing unique enough to make it stand above its kin.

The theme of an obsessed man bent on revenge and harboring a not-so-hidden death wish is nothing new. Handed the story - again - of a man seeking answers after the violent death of loved ones is the basis of everything from Jason in Greek mythology to The Punisher.

The only thing left up in the air with that set up is: will he die in a hail of bullets achieving his objective, or will he live to fight in another sequel?

The strongest elements in Max Payne revolved around the fine line it walked between reality and hallucination. Mixing the modern world with a little spice in the form of Norse mythos is also a nice innovation for film - at least until the THOR movie comes out.

If you're an actual scholar, you might wonder at the sexless or male winged figures representing the "Valkyr" - which in

mythology and opera are distinctly female and typically appear much better looking, even when portrayed by three hundred pound operatic sopranos. But you can't quibble with the menace of them, or the snowy oppressiveness of a New York City winter (even if so much of it was so clearly downtown Toronto.)

I also got a kick out of the last name of Payne's overweight, shaggy-bearded partner - jarringly named after "Balder the Beautiful," the heartbreakingly gorgeous darling of the Aesir gods.

You have to love the moments when the film veered into trippy altered reality; the black winged, bright-eyes Valkyr sweeping snow into eddies while showering sparks like acetylene torches was particularly stunning.

But there are too many hackneyed plot elements. The surprise twist ending is no surprise, because it's exactly what always happens in ever similar film.

Mila Kunis at least is fun and never becomes a plot-point character. In fact, some of the best scenes in the film are between her, Wahlberg, and her junkie sister. Chris O'Donnell shines as the timid, over-sensitive drug company exec, and Toronto's own Marianthi Evans (a former WILDsound and Wildcard Pictures regular) shines as the best dead-but-not-forgotten wife since Jorge Fox in Memento. Beau Bridges is not really up to his usual self, but then, he's got a cliche of a role to work with. Not surprising, but a bit of a disappointment.

I don't know where the story could have been tweaked or ratched up to make it more outstanding. Despite a nice look, an okay script, and decent performances, there's just not much to write home about.

Bottom line - there's nothing new here, but it's not a bad ride.

2 out of 4 stars.

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Film Critic Eli Manning's Point of View of Max Payne

The star of Max Payne, Mark Wahlberg, is a good actor -- but only when he picks the right projects for him. Whenever he tries to play the moody hero character, he's fails and is unconvincing.

If you take a look at his body of work, Wahlberg only shines when we plays the confusing role. Think back to such roles he did in Boogie Nights, I Heart Huckabees, The Departed, Invincible and even the commercial failure We Own the Night. Those roles are always the confusing character. Someone who is one thing but in reality is actually another thing. His emotions are mixed up and therefore he tries to compensate outwardly for what he feels inwardly. It's great acting and Walhberg is a master at playing those roles.

But he wants to be the leading man hero like many star actors. In Max Payne, Wahlberg's performance just doesn't work. He's a character with just one purpose and he just can't play that role. And since he's in almost every scene in Max Payne, we the audience need someone to attach ourselves to and have full confidence in. Only a select few actors can play this role currently on planet earth, and Marky Mark ain't one of them.

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