Max Payne delivers a solid noir experience

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When I heard that there was a Max Payne movie in the works, my glee was a palpable thing. When the Max Payne games were new (and even for a while after they were old), I had endless fun weaving my way through the richest film noir story I’d ever seen in a video game, leaving hallways and rooms strewn with violence in my wake.

So when the movie finally opened, I grabbed a few friends and went to the theater, hoping to re-live the experience of playing through two of the most fantastically story-driven games I’d ever played.

First, let me say that I did immensely enjoy the movie – not just because it was based off one of my favorite series, but because it was a good movie in its own regard. I was, however, put off by a few things, and immensely disappointed by another.

While I enjoyed the movie, I thought the fact that I’d played the games was helping me along through the plot. The movie was incredibly true to the storyline of the first game, with all the major plot events present. But there were times when I felt that I wouldn’t have quite understood something if I hadn’t played through the games, or that there was something unnecessary in the movie that alienated those who weren’t familiar with the story.

For example, in a scene late in the movie, the camera shows a sign reading “GOGNITTI’S USED CAR LOT” for a few seconds. This is fantastic to those of us who know who Vinnie Gognitti is – but then the camera cuts to a scene at the docks, and the sign ends up not having anything to do with the events that follow, or for that matter anything else on the movie.

These disappointments, however, pale in comparison to my biggest grief – that except for one scene at the beginning of the movie, Max’s omnipresent, dark and compelling narratives were entirely missing from the movie. Maybe I’m expecting too much, but in the game, what really made the story was that every scene was narrated by Max’s internal monologue, lending a new perspective on events as well as endless insight into the deep and twisted character that was Max Payne. If there were one thing I could change about the movie, it would be to add this.

Despite all of this, I did still find myself enjoying the movie, as I said. Despite the lack of narrative, I still felt that the characters were developed enough to make an interesting story. The movie was also very true to both the events of the first game and the film noir style – even though it’s in a modern setting, it still manages to recreate the dark, gritty feel of the classic detective story.

The plot, while a little rushed at times, is mostly played through well enough that it’s easy to follow, and the action sequences are just enough to keep you on the edge of your seat without being over-the-top or unrealistic.

All in all, I’d have to say that anyone who’s played the Max Payne games should definitely see this movie. It won’t quite recreate what you felt while playing the games, but it’ll be close enough that you may not know the difference – and even if you do, you’ll still enjoy it. And while I can’t recommend it as strongly to those of us who missed out on the games, I’d still encourage you to see it if you’re looking for a good movie to catch with some friends on a Friday night. Personally, I enjoyed it immensely, and despite the flaws in this movie, I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel.