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At what point would you stop in avenging the death of your loved ones? In Romans 12 God says, “vengeance is mine”. But as humans there is something about our inner makeup that makes us want to see the wrong doers punished. In our way, in our time, and at our hands. And we rejoice at seeing others get that same satisfaction. But in the end is it healthy? I know I am getting deep about a movie based on a video game but the new action crime drama Max Payne brings up some interesting points if you truly want to think about it. Or you could just have some fun and watch Payne kick some booty.

Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is a detective in charge of cold cases. The biggest one is the murder of his wife and child three years earlier. Since then he has focused on nothing but bringing them to justice. When a new set of clues comes forth he joins with an underground mafia-esque killer (Mila Kunis) who is also seeking revenge of her sister’s murder. A death they think is related to Payne’s family. This new set of clues puts them up against a drug addicted group and spiritual forces that seem to be pulling the strings. Payne also has to battle internal affairs and stay one step ahead of arrest.

I loved the visual style of this film. It had a dark, graphic novel appearance to it reminiscent of Sin City. This gave it the timeless aura of a classic detective drama but with a surreal, almost unworldly look. Wahlberg brought a brooding intensity to Payne which made the film work. You could see the pain and determination on his face as he stopped at nothing to destroy those who took away his family. Kunis was surprisingly good in this role, but the only issue I had was a personal one. I just can’t take her serious in anything. She will always be Jackie from That 70’s Show and try as I might I could not separate the two. Possibly she is too sweet a person to pull off a destructive character. Not exactly sure. Maybe it is the lack of force in her voice. She just sounds “nice”.

The addition of the spiritual world made this film stand out from many in this genre. The presence of the mysterious winged creatures of lore worked to its advantage. It was subtle enough not to become campy or ridiculous. The spiritual elements also served well to show the gap that exists between this world and the next. Our longing to be with those who have passed on is in constant conflict with our role in the here and now. Payne is a character who is caught between the two and it is this struggle that drives him to possible destruction. Revenge is never easy or complete. And it certainly is never effective in bringing us peace, on either side.

Max Payne is rated PG-13 for violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language. Smart move to create a film of this nature that can still be viewed by those under 17. I say smart in that they were able to tone down many of the graphic elements without losing any of the story and intensity. I still would keep it to your 16 and up movie goers. It is a violent story in theme and could be viewed as glorifying by the wrong mindset. The gamers in your family may think it is timid in comparison to the game content but you can decide for yourself there. I give Max Payne 3.5 out of 5 snowy alley ways. Well acted and brilliantly shot, it still was a little too dark. Like revenge I didn’t leave feeling like anything was accomplished for the better. In these times we are in I am looking for at least a little bit of uplifting in my entertainment. But, well, maybe that is just me.

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and hosts a daily online talk show along with a weekend radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website”

Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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