By James Rocchi,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Video game adaptation is bloody but boring.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The lead character is motivated by the death of his wife and baby son. A major corporation is involved in bribery, murder, drug trafficking, and other criminal activity. The villain explains how committing murder made him feel liberated, as if all his problems could now be solved by force and will.
Violence & Scariness
Constant extreme violence, including shootouts, shootings, knife-fights, and fistfights; blood and dismembered body parts are shown; one sequence shows a close-up of fingernails being torn from the hands of a man at the edge of a building before he falls to his death; shotgun murders, slow-motion bullet entrances and exits, explosions, and more, with dead bodies visible on screen. The closing credits are over a computer-animated collage of guns being shot, reloaded, and so on.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some partial glimpses of naked breasts, panty-clad bottoms, and scantily clad women; indistinct flashes of a sex scene in a flashback. Kissing. An underwear-clad woman writhes on a bed and makes sexual advances, which are rebuffed.
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Strong language, including one non-sexual use of "f--k" also "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "piss," "hell," and more.
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Products & Purchases
A Macintosh computer is clearly visible.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink hard liquor, wine, and beer to excess (some also drink more responsibly). A character poses with a cigarette but doesn't smoke it. An experimental military performance-enhancing drug is abused and sold as a street narcotic, with supporting characters suffering fierce cravings for it. The lead character takes two doses of it to rouse himself after a near-drowning, and viewers see his resulting violent hallucinations, including black-winged demonic angel-like beings. A major corporation traffics the drug on the street.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this video game-based action movie -- which was originally rated R and still feels more like that than a PG-13 -- is extremely violent and loaded with images of characters shooting or being shot. The plot revolves around a major corporation murdering to protect the money it's making after turning a failed military performance-enhancing drug into a street drug. The lead character takes a couple of doses to take advantage of the drug's energizing properties after a near-fatal drowning, so the last 20 minutes of the film are seen, in part, through his hallucinatory perspective. In addition to the constant violence, the movie also has plenty of salty language, sexual content, and drinking.
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What's the Story?
Based on the 2001 video game, MAX PAYNE follows the titular NYPD cop (Mark Wahlberg) as he hunts down the last of three men who killed his wife and baby son three years ago. Max's quest pulls him into the city's underworld, where a debauched, dangerous crowd is addicted to a new, high-powered street drug. Max soon learns that his wife's old employer, a major pharmaceutical company, may be behind the plague on the streets, as well as his wife's death. Max's search leads him to a glamorous assassin, Mona (Mila Kunis); his father's old NYPD partner, B.B. Hensley (Beau Bridges); and Internal Affairs cop Lt. Bravura (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) -- but who are Max's real allies, and who are his enemies?
Is It Any Good?
A bloody yet pale imitation of stylish action films like Sin City and the brilliant action choreography of John Woo, Max Payne is an effects-loaded action film that's surprisingly ineffective. Part of the blame goes to Wahlberg, who seems to only deliver his lines in a low, hunched mumble or a full-throated bellow. Max is avenging his murdered wife and son, but Walhberg never generates any sympathy as Max -- it's one thing to be an anti-hero, but Max is anti-interesting.
The Max Payne video game came out in 2001 -- a lifetime ago in the accelerated timeframe of video games -- and you have to wonder why Fox is striking while the iron is, at best, lukewarm. The action is nothing viewers haven't seen before -- lifted from real action classics like Hard Boiled, Die Hard, and The Killer -- and the bizarre, monster-filled hallucinations endured by the characters who take the experimental drug just make the film feel even more ridiculously over the top. The post-credits scene includes a clear set-up for Max Payne II; the movie before the credits makes that feel more like a threat than a promise.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why Hollywood turns video games into movies, and whether the (theoretically) interactive experience of playing a game is different from the more passive experience of watching a movie. Does violence impact you in different ways when you're participating in it vs. just watching it? How so? Families can also discuss revenge and vengeance -- movies glamorize them, but are they, in fact, ethical things to pursue when wronged? How else can people seek out justice?
- In theaters: October 17, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: January 20, 2009
- Cast: Beau Bridges, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis
- Director: John Moore
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language.
- Last updated: March 28, 2023
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