But wait, there’s more catching up to be done! (This is getting exhausting)
I have come to the conclusion that film versions of video games do not work. Whilst this statement may seem up there with revelations such as “water is wet” and “shutting your eyes makes it difficult to see”, you must understand something. I love video games. I’ve loved them since I was an ankle-biter and will probably keep loving them for a long time to come. As I’ve grown up, video games have too, with titles pushing the boundaries, not only from a technological point of view, but a narrative one too. I can honestly say that when the game Bioshock was released, I found its story to be better than 90% of films released that year. The Max Payne video game was first introduced to me back in 2002 by a friend and I was blown away by its gritty story, brilliant voice acting and (then) revolutionary bullet-time gameplay. It was basically every film noir there is boiled down into a pure playable form. Six years after that moment, Hollywood decides it wants in and the Max Payne film is born. Lucky us (!) Let me save you some reading- the film is pretty shitty. However, I decided to use Max Payne as an example of everything that’s wrong with video game adaptations, how I’d do it differently and why I’m so right.
After his wife and child are murdered, Det. Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) becomes a man obsessed with finding the escaped killer from his job in the Cold Case department in the NYPD. After a lead, he explores the filthy underbelly of the city where a new drug called Valkyr is somehow involved. Along the way, Max meets Mona Sax (Mila Kunis), a Russian assassin who blames Max for the death of her sister. The plot is a bit hit-and-miss. Funnily enough, the bits that work are lifted directly from the game. All the other bits are just a bit saggy compared to the strong central narrative of Max wanting vengeance for his murdered family. Both Marky Mark and Jackie from That ’70s Show are fine, but completely miscast. Max Payne should be a brooding, gritty husk of a man driven by revenge. When I think of dark and brooding, I don’t think of Mark Wahlberg, let me tell you that for free. Not sure who I would have cast (who said Christian Bale?! Back of the class, you bell-end) although the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced Viggo Mortenson would have been awesome. Marky Mark is simply not a good fit. Same goes for Mila Kunis who was better than Marky Mark, but lacked the femme fatale quality needed for the role (I hate to say it, but Angelina Jolie would have been so much better). Also she is quite a small woman, so some of the massive guns she has to wield look ridiculous. It’s like when a toddler tries on its father’s shoes- cute, but highly impractical. If that last sentence sounded chauvanistic to you, then stop reading this and go and shave your armpits you lesbian femma-hippie…
So, my problems with it go like this. Firstly, without the knowing, so-dark it-hurts film noir feeling of the game, the name “Max Payne” sounds incredibly cheesy and vomit-inducing. I was half expecting a Det. Dick Thrust or a Ms. Lotta Areola to turn up. Secondly, although the film looks very nice in places (the Valkyrie hallucinations are beautiful and unsettling in equal measures) there’s no real need for it. Plus, it does get a bit too Constantine to garner any real credit for orignality. Thirdly, the fucking thing was a PG-13, so any darkness accidentally left in the script was scrubbed out by the director to make a shitload of extra cash. I actually watched the “Unrated” version of the film and it’s painfully obvious where they’ve CGI’d the blood back in, so no hope of a Die Hard 4.0-style redemption on disc.
My main problem with the whole thing was the feeling throughout that Hollywood knows better than the video game industry. They’ve taken a great story, shook it down to supposedly marketable ideas and chucked the rest away without a care in the damn world. You know what, you Hollywood pricks? That is the reason why Hollywood keeps turning out insipid shite year after year and why people will eventually become bored with your re-hashed action films and indeterminable rom-coms. Because you think you know better. Look at some films that have been well received that have been adapted from other media- Sin City, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, The Lord of the Rings films- know what they have in common? They didn’t dick their fans about by pissing all over the well-loved and time-tested stories. Just think about it, you out-of-touch cocks.
Anyway- Max Payne. It’s not awful, just not that good either. It’s as bland as they come with annoying touches of visual flair that belong in a better film.