Max Payne (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language.
Length: 100 minutes
Grade: BDCB=B
Budget: $35 million
Box Office: $86 million (41 U.S., 45 Intl.)

Written by: Beau Thorne (first screenplay), based on the video games of Sam Lake.
Directed by: John Moore (The Omen 2006, Flight of the Phoenix, and Behind Enemy Lines)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Chris O’Donnell, Donal Logue, and Amaury Nolasco.

Devastated by the murder of his wife and child, detective Max Payne finds himself thrust into the middle of a series of bizarre drug-related murders, and the more he looks, the more it seems everything is connected to his own loss.

Entertainment Value: B
I actually found myself enjoying this more than I had expected. Most movies based on video games fall in the C range at best because they’re always short on story, character, and art and long on violence and action. Plus, they tend to feel like they’re based on a video game, falling short of feature movie quality and requiring familiarity with the game to fully comprehend. Not here. There’s enough film noir meets supernatural thriller here to make it interesting. In the end, it does become more like the standard blow-em-all-away flick, but despite all the opportunities to make a really average movie out of this, it stays above that line.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity C-, Violence D, Language D, Illegality D
I watched the unrated DVD, not the original PG-13, so my comments reflect that. There are a couple of sexual scenes at the beginning that make it PG-13, although no nudity. There is drug use throughout (albeit a fictional drug). The language is at the upper end of PG-13. But I think the things that would have made the DVD R are the violence (killing with machete, murder of a woman and a child, and lots of gun violence) and the general spookiness of the Valkyries (shadow beings that are constantly menacing the drug users).

Significant Content: C
On the surface, the themes are justice through strength, the corruption of corporations, the dangers of drug use, and the deeper significance of “cool” tattoos. But the overriding theme of this movie is vengeance, which though presented as a frustrating and idolatrous mistress also seems to satisfy Max Payne and, vicariously, the audience as well.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
The art here is quite good, something of a cross between Sin City and Constantine. But my favorite aspect of this movie is the portrayal (perhaps unintentional) of idolatry in revenge. Max Payne is willing to kill people, use self-destructive drugs, and do harm to almost anyone including himself in his effort to bring a vendetta against those who killed his family. Such an unhealthy obsession can only be described as idolatry, and the totality of its consumptive power is surely on display here. Also, though the drug use is bothersome, the fact that the drugs are the gateway to ushering in a dark world of supernatural terror isn’t all that different from reality. Plus, I must give them credit for actually presenting a couple of the scenes of shooting mayhem in the style of a first-person shooter game.

Discussion Questions:
~Consider some of the use of color in this movie, such as the red dress, the green window, and the orange embers associated with the Valkyries.
~To what degree is Max Payne’s identity completely defined by revenge? Consider how he gets out of the river, what he does to his own body, and the things he is willing to do to others in pursuit of his goal. Does he seem to derive joy from his mission? From anything else? How does his identity and personal sense of significance lead him to turn down Natasha?
~Do you think this movie accurately portrays the connection between drug use, altered states of consciousness, and demonic activity?
~What is this movie saying about tattoos? Do you think it’s right? Is this movie an endorsement of Norse mythology?
~When the Haitian gangster says that Max Payne is hunting to make something known that God wants hidden, what does he mean? Is he right? Is there true danger in trying to pry open things God wants concealed? Consider what the Bible says about sealing things up until the proper time?

Overall Grade: B
And apparently I’m the only one who thought so. Christianity Today gave it ½ star, which is the minimum among kind people. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and found some intriguing substance to boot.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

This one's on my to-watch list. So there's at least one other person who thought it would be worth watching (even though I've yet to do so). Don't know how you find the time to watch so many movies. Are you watching cliffnotes versions? =)