[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=1345[/img]Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Chris O'Donnell, Ludacris
Director: John Moore
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Production Year: 2008
Media Year: January 20, 2008
Length: 100 minutes
It was more years ago than I care to remember that I played the original Max Payne video game. I recall that cold December when perpetual puffy wet snow-flakes drifted from the air - soft yet relentless as a wrong number.
Staying indoors for a few straight afternoons I sucked in the dry heated air and finished the game in record time. It reeled me in like a stool pigeon at some dirty pool-hall. I was already addicted to the oft’ imitated bullet-time slow-mo shootouts in its third-person perspective. Then I was completely taken by the film noir-style narration - as cold and cheesy as a street vendor Phili-steak sandwich from the wrong side of town.
The movie had been rumored for years and so I thought - long forgotten. Sure, I have low expectations out of a video game movie.
The style of the film is immediately apparent from the menu system of the Blu-ray disc. If you like video games and if you’ve ever caught yourself admiring things like physics engines, graphics and textures in games… you’ll find a lot to enjoy about Max Payne. The style is top notch and has video game written all over it.
Sadly the movie came out a bit late. When Max Payne arrived the slow-mo shoot-em-up sequences were astonishingly original. We saw it in Matrix and John Woo movies and here it was being played in a video game. Today it’s a little over-done but somehow never gets boring when it’s done well.
The storytelling of this film is actually not that bad (despite the unkind reviews this film has received). It starts off as a crime-thriller with bogus two-dimensional characters that bear little in common with real people. But it doesn’t take long for the crime thriller to start verging into the super-natural. I have to admit it makes this transition gently at first and could really suck you in.
The style in terms of quick editing and action sequences, even the bullet-time sequences are all very well done. Although it’s nothing we haven’t seen before it’s got a certain style.
One knock against it is Mark Wahlberg. I normally like him as a supporting actor, he’s great when he’s confused or congenial. I don’t buy him as the tough guy, one-man-army sort. I recently saw another mindless action flick with a far more appropriate leading man in Jason Statham who could have pulled off Max Payne with more style and panache than Wahlberg.
The worst thing about this film is the missed opportunity to dive into Sin City territory with more corny film-noir narration. One of the prominent features of the video game was the story being told by Max himself. The film didn’t really explore this possibility, I’m sure Markie Mark could have pulled it off.
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Clean and polished video slanted to the cool side of the color spectrum is what you’ll get with this Fox release. Fox has had some real stinkers in the past when it comes to hi-def transfers for Blu-ray, fortunately Fox is improving and Max Payne seems to demonstrate this commitment.
The movie spends a lot of time in shadowy darkness but never breaks up into graininess – a problem with dark scenes in a lot of hi-def transfers. The contrasts with bold colors and fire against inky black backdrops make the video seem to jump out. The overall coolness of the color palette works with the film’s material.
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Like the video game there are haunting, nightmarish sequences where a voice or a crying baby will seem to leap out of nowhere to surprise you from the surrounds. The film does a good job of building tension which is more difficult to put to a good audio soundtrack than action – thankfully Max Payne does a great job.
What about the LFE laden action scenes? They’re amazingly booming! Every weapon in Max Payne, from 9-mm pistol to compact sub-machineguns all sound like cannons. There is enough deep-bass gunfire to work your sub. Many of the supernatural sequences even give a background rumble that sounds spectacularly mood setting.
I find it a bit annoying to hear small caliber firearms go boom-boom too much like typical “movie guns”. But I guess not everyone has been in the Army and knows that M-16s and Ak-47s don’t really sound like a .50 cal. It’s too bad movies don’t employ the real sounds which I find more subtle but far more scary the rare times they’re used in film.
The genuine sound of that crack-crack or pop-pop-popping of a real 7.62 mm rifle firing in the distance can be downright scary, partly because they sound like cap-guns and you know this ain’t no movie.
Special Features :3stars:
Unrated vs. Theatrical: You can choose between theatrical or unrated versions of the film. I only watched the unrated version so I don’t know what might have been edited in the theatrical version.
Director’s Commentary: Provided by Director John Moore, Production Designer Daniel Dorrance and Visual Effects Supervisor Everett Burrell.
Picture: Film documentary divided into two parts aptly named parts one and two.
Michelle Payne Graphic Novel (HD): Now this is cool! Even if you don’t think it’s very well-done. It’s a sort of comic book with voices. It tells the story of Michelle Payne before her murder and is drawn with a distinct water-color style art-work. Even if it’s not necessary you have to give them credit for adding this feature. Fans of the movie will certainly want to see this – it’s clearly what a special feature should be!
BonusView: Walkthrough and cheats - Making max Payne in the PiP sub-picture. Behind the scenes with director John Moore.
Digital Copy: Now you can download a copy of the movie to your mobile device or computer.
Granted, this ain't no award winner and perhaps it represents a sort of dip in the kind of material Wahlberg has been doing since The Departed. However...If you like a good action thriller with elements of horror this is definitely worth the watch. That it’s shot and edited with a distinct visual style of a video game makes it all the more appealing.
Oh, we’ve seen some stinkers of video game adaptations. Doom comes to mind. But Max Payne is much more interesting, the sets are larger the shots of the New York City’s skyline are artfully composed, especially when seen under various drug-induced, super-natural influences throughout the film. If you're really impressed with what you see or you're a fan of the video game the special features are worth an extra night's rental. There are enough here to keep it interesting for a short time.