One of the silliest films of the year. Wahlberg can do better.
"Suddenly, there was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car." Thus spoke Hunter Thompson’s alter ego, Raoul Duke, at the beginning of 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'.
The bats were, of course, only in the mind of the drug-addled Duke. But 40-odd years on, the terrifying winged creatures that frequent the Max Payne universe are not so easily explained – and just one the many baffling elements in one of the silliest films of the year.
By now most film fans are resigned to the tedious production line of medium-budget, action-by-numbers clones that come out every year on the back of even moderately successful video games. But with a plot from a rejected Famous Five story and woeful dialogue ("I believe in Pain. I believe in Fear. I believe in Death") this is worse than most.
The story takes its cue from the video game as we find brooding cop Mark Wahlberg as the titular antihero, hell-bent on vengeance for his wife’s death. His investigations lead to an underground movement, based around the latest drug on the streets – Valkyr.
As he gets drawn into a seedy world of crime, corporate corruption and betrayal, he teams up with Mila Kunis as the phony-tough Mona Sax and is helped by Beau Bridges, playing BB Hensley, Payne’s father’s ex-partner. With scant regard for official police procedure, Payne blasts his way round town with a shotgun, often moving in bullet time as in the original game.
Payne says very little, preferring to let the shotgun speak for him – but when he does open his mouth, you find yourself longing for the blast of the 12 gauge again, so basic is the dialogue Wahlberg is provided with. The overall crudity of the writing and plot are more than enough to put off most sentient viewers… but then come the bats.
Periodically, whenever characters in the film take Valkyr, two things happen – they get hulk-like, and weird, bat creatures appear in the sky for no good reason. In the video game, these are simply drug-fuelled hallucinations but the movie suggests that they are real mythological creatures with murderous intent.
Their purpose in the film is similarly blurry. They simply appear at various intervals to the horror of the characters and the bemusement of the audience.
It’s tempting to suggest that without these beasts, Max Payne would be a better film, but that’s not true. As it is, the film is like an '80s Japanese game show – budget nonsense, but… what the fuck?
Wait, what are those things?
Defies all sense. Wahlberg can do better.