A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.