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Fri October 17, 2008
"It's PG-13, Stupid"
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"When the people a man needs get taken away from him, you can't ever go back to the way you were before." BB Hensley (Beau Bridges) in Max Payne
You got it: Detective Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) has been hunting the killer of his wife and child for three years. The Sam Lake video game hero is pretty tough, but never as stylized as a video game violent guy or graphic novel protagonist could be. Curiously this adaptation is filled with gunfire but little blood, sexy ladies but little sex, lots of noise but little excitement.
Oh, wait, it's PG-13. How dumb, not of me, but of director John Moore, who should know a bit about thrilling gore from his Omen experience. In order to get the more lucrative PG-13 rating, Moore cut a shot or two, thereby emasculating a film that could have been cherished by global geeks.
The film lacks an edge of the kind pulp fictional heroes frequently have (See Sin City)--Wahlberg has a more stoical glare than even in his well-received thriller, Shooter, and shows considerably fewer acting chops than in his role in the Oscar-nominated Departed.
To its credit the film tries to be different by adding some magical elements such as birds of prey that swoop in and out like avenging angels, associated I presume with the hallucinatory side effects of a powerful drug that turns mere soldiers or thugs into invincible fighting machines. Such is the complication attending the simpler revenge motif.
Wahlberg doesn't crack a smile, nor do I as I remember how bored I was watching it, a critic who usually enjoys Wahlberg's one-note heroes and the thriller genre itself. Bourne this is not. Barely B film it is.
Max Payne: "There's an army of bodies under this river, people who ran out of time, out of friends. I could feel the dead down there, reaching up to welcome me as one of their own. It was an easy mistake to make."
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com