This gets a little bit ouroboros-y, so bear with me for a sec: Max Payne was a videogame that came out in 2001. That game and its 2003 sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, were ridiculous and goofy and fun, and they played like unapologetic ripoffs of John Woo movies: There was a whole lot of shooting generic bad guys, and a whole lot of slow motion. Last year, Woo, seeing the money Max Payne was raking in, made his own videogame, Stranglehold, which ironically enough, played like an unapologetic ripoff of Max Payne. And now there's a Max Payne movie—which, predictably enough, looks and feels like a really shitty John Woo movie.
The fact that Max Payne is an awful movie shouldn't be surprising to anyone who's sat through any cinematic adaptation of any videogame ever, from Super Mario Bros. to Street Fighter to Doom to Resident Evil to Double Dragon to Hitman to Tomb Raider. What is kind of surprising, though, is just how little Hollywood has learned in its quest to lure Nintendo fanboys into movie theaters. While the videogame industry has learned an incredible amount from feature films (at this point, the narratives in the best videogames frequently eclipse those offered by mainstream Hollywood), that pollination apparently only goes one way. Fifteen years after Hollywood started adapting videogames to the screen, Max Payne is as stylistically and narratively inept as 1993's Super Mario Bros.
In Max Payne, a visibly apathetic Mark Wahlberg plays the hilariously named titular character, a mopey New York cop trying to track down the murderer of his family. (In flashbacks, his wife and baby appear in the gold-tinged hues of sweet, sweet memory—that's how you can tell how sad Max is about all of this, especially since his current-day Manhattan is a grimy, gray place that's made up only of sketchy alleys and is perpetually besmirched by CG snowflakes.)
Max's primary mode of investigation involves looking surly and punching people in the face—until he gets the help of Mona Sax, the only person on the planet with a name sillier than his. Mona is some sort of cop or KGB agent or something (it's never really made clear), but she's mostly just interesting because she's played by That '70s Show's Mila Kunis. Kunis was adorable and funny in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but she's astonishingly miscast as Mona Sax for several reasons, not the least of which is that she appears to be roughly three feet tall. Marky Mark and Kunis are joined by A-listers like Beau Bridges and Chris O'Donnell, and there are also some giant flying demon monkeys, because why the fuck not I guess, and also because somebody apparently decided that in addition to videogames, kids also like crappy CG monsters.
Max spends most of his film gawping at the aforementioned demon monkeys and saying things like, "I don't believe in Heaven... I believe in pain" (JESUS FUCKING CHRIST), but it's not all entirely terrible. In the too-few scenes when director John Moore wisely ignores Beau Thorne's stupid, dreary script and has these characters shoot some stuff, Moore at least shows some proficiency for emulating the preposterous slow-mo gunfights that made old John Woo movies (and old Max Payne games) so cool to look at. The rest of the time, Max Payne just serves as a reminder why Chris O'Donnell isn't famous anymore and why Marky Mark should only be allowed to play his characters from Boogie Nights and The Departed and never anyone else. And also why you should never watch any sort of movie that's in any way related to any videogame, unless it's a between-level cutscene on your Xbox.