Film-Noir Snow Globe: John Moore’s Max Payne


If Oscars were handed out for fake snow, director John Moore’s bleary, dreary, sub–Sin City big-screen video game would clean up like Ben-Hur: By the 50th exterior shot strewn with fistfuls of art-directed dandruff, a viewer stuck in this film-noir snow globe feels like W.C. Fields in The Fatal Glass of Beer. Trudging sullenly through Moore’s winter wonderland is avenging lawman Mark Wahlberg, tracking the syndicate responsible for his family’s murder. The role requires Wahlberg to run the gamut of emotions from A to A as he opens doors, glowers, assembles guns, glowers, points guns, glowers—and, for a big finish, glowers. (Even if he endows Max Payne with min brayne, the actor comes off better than Mila Kunis, a vengeful assassin by way of a Macy’s makeup counter, or Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, who plays bad-ass Lieutenant Bravura as if his name were Rookie Nondescript.) At least the summer’s dunderheaded Wanted indulged its thrill-junkie jones for destruction without shame: Apart from one cool effects shot of a dragon-winged demon whisking a thug from a high-rise window—you’ve seen it in the trailer—and a constructivist fistfight rendered in comic-book panels of discrete motion, this joyless, humorless third-person-shooter cheats even on its modest promise of mindless mayhem. The only moment that even mildly ruffles the harbinger-of-doom PG-13 rating belongs to future Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, who peels off her dress with NC-17 aplomb—then vanishes from the movie, proving more adept than anyone else involved at dodging a bullet.