Some may argue that there are a limited number of possible film genres. While this may be true to some extent the number of combinations is staggering and constantly growing. One of the latest hybrid genres to become popular is the supernatural crime thriller. It is no longer exciting enough for an over worked police officer to fight regular crime, now he has to have all sorts of demons running around his town. In the case of ‘Max Payne’ the demons may be more of a hallucination but their presence places this film in the category. This flick is also part of another new trend in movies. It is taken from a video game. This does a few things that are important to the studios. It ensures there is a captive target audience consisting of the fans of the game. It also serves to ensure there will be more than enough action, bloodshed and general mayhem to pull in the die hard action buffs. The supernatural overtones give this film a very dark and foreboding feel that may also garner more than a few horror flick fans. The trailer for the movie played up the supernatural elements perhaps a bit more than actually found in the flick itself. Now the downside of building a movie around a video game is the target audience is going to be the same as for the game; high school boys and frat guys. All that really matters in this case is action and in that sense the film works. This is the kind of motion picture that will do better with the audiences than any would try to consider it with the usual critical eye for technical details. This is demonstrated by its box office with was sure to have made the studio executives happy. The film was one of the best ranked of any movie adaptation of a video game and opened at number one. It is important that when you look at how well a film works that you keep in mind the objectives the film makers had. In some cases they are in it for the art of cinema; they want to create a piece that will have a lasting impact on the industry and the audience. Then there are films like this that desire little more than to entertain the audience for a couple of hours. With this as the criteria it has to be said that the movie works and was successful. For a dark action flick it is fun to watch. Now this is easy thanks to the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film through Fox Home Entertainment.
The original video game story came from Sam Lake who has banked his career on the Max Payne character. Bringing his character and basic story to the screen fell to Beau Thorne. This is his first outing in any aspect of film making. He holds the story together better than expected for a video game thriller. Usually there is a lack of depth and character development but Throne provides fairly fleshed out characters for the story. Much of what he does in this aspect of story telling he pulls from the plethora of regulation crime thrillers over the years. The main character, Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is the prototypical troubled police detective. His wife and newborn baby had been murdered and he is obsessed with finding the killer. Okay, I said there was more than the usual character background not that it was original. One reason this plot device borders on the hackney is it works. It gives a solid motivation to the protagonist that everyone in the audience can get behind and understand. This tale blends a few such themes. The detective is pulled into a dark world of super drugs and killers with seemingly no way out. Along the way he gets to have a numerous shootouts and blow up a few things to the delight of the audience. While the story is an expansion of the game there is not that much that is novel. In the case of an adrenaline pumped flick that has never been much of a hindrance before though. The core of the story is a vast conspiracy that involves a drug that can produce the ultimate solider. Again, we have all seen this before but here there is at least the modicum of style to the presentation.
The choice of director for this film was actually a pretty good one. John Moore has the experience in action and supernatural films to allow him to make this one into an interesting movie. Previously he helmed a couple of remakes; ‘The Omen’ and ‘The Flight of the Phoenix’. He also directed the war flick ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ as well as a couple of lighter shorts. This resume gives Moore a few advantages here. First, he knows how to direct an action oriented movie. It takes a different style to include a lot of pyrotechnics in a film in a fashion that looks believable. He also knows how to sell a supernatural element in a film. This requires a gentle touch so as not to over power the audience with too much mythology. In this movie he dips into Norse myths, or at least the popular conception of such, to tie together the central themes of the story. As far as his style goes Moore is better at painting a picture than explaining it. This is a visually interesting movie that summons up images of the worse possible nightmares. He can take a by the numbers story and keep the audience engaged just by the look and pacing of the film.
Max Payne has bee relegated to a low position in the police force. He is stuck in the basement working on cold cases. The one that he is obsessed with is the still unsolved murders of his wife and child. Following a lead by an informant Payne winds up in a party where he meets Natasha Sax (Olga Kurylenko) and her sister, Mona (Mila Kunis). Later in the evening Natasha is murdered. Payne convinces his former partner, Alex Balder (Donal Logue), to let him tag along on the investigation. They discover a clue that ties his murder to Payne’s family; a winged tattoo on Natasha’s arm which was also on his wife’s killer. Alex is murdered and someone attacks Payne resulting in him winding up in the hospital continently next to his former mentor B.B. Hensley (Beau Bridges). Mona initially believes that Payne killed her sister but he manages to convince her otherwise. She is out for revenge and is deadly enough to pull it off. This works its way to a connection with a drug called Valkyr which can make a person into a wild fighting machine. In some cases it results in horrible hallucinations of winged creatures. While the story has a degree of complexity not typically found in a game based flick it does lose its narrative by the second act.
Fox has three ways too bring this film to your home theater. There is the standard DVD, a special edition DVD and a Blu-ray edition. If at all possible go for the Blu-ray version. Not only is the 1080p and True HD audio spectacular it is loaded with extras. With a visually oriented film the video is naturally all important. With the Blu-ray there is such clarity that you will feel as if you are right there in the middle of the action. There is no sign of artifact or any digital problems making this something to experience. The audio is breathtaking. It fills the room and pumps out of all the speakers. The sub woofer roars out with the action. The special edition DVD has some of the extras on the Blu-ray but to get everything you need to go high definition.