Imagine The Constant Gardener after a frontal lobotomy, and that's basically Max Payne in a nutshell.
The latest bomb based on a popular video game (a lamentable tradition that has brought such works as Super Mario Bros. and Mortal Kombat to the big screen), the film stars Mark Wahlberg as the title character, a New York cop who, years after the fact, is still solely obsessed with solving the murders of his wife and baby. It sounds like standard Death Wish fare; the picture even opens with Max luring three drug addicts into a subway restroom, then proceeding to inflict Payne -- excuse me, pain -- on them. But as in The Constant Gardener, a major pharmaceutical outfit figures into the proceedings, though it's safe to say that Ralph Fiennes never had to contend with winged demons flying all over the cityscape. That's not the case with Wahlberg, whose character also has to deal with invincible super-soldiers (created for the War on Terror, natch), a leggy druggie (played by upcoming Bond babe Olga Kurylenko) and a career assassin (a miscast Mila Kunis) who's about as menacing as a Scooby-Doo plush doll.
Rather than focusing on making a kick-ass action flick (presumably what fans of the video game would crave), director John Moore (the lame remake of The Omen) and novice scripter Beau Thorne dress up their simplistic revenge yarn with various twists and turns -- all of which are absurdly easy to predict (if the revelation of the piece's final villain surprises you, you really need to add more mysteries to your moviegoing diet). Yet even when they do get around to the shootouts and fisticuffs, they prove to be flagrantly opportunistic, rehashing both The Matrix and the John Woo oeuvre to diminishing returns.
Incidentally, stay through the final credits to see the coda that promises a sequel. My bet is that it will star Donnie Wahlberg instead of Mark and debut directly on DVD.
So while the rain in Spain may fall mainly on the plain, the pain in Payne falls squarely on the heads of unsuspecting audience members concussed by the bricks of ineptitude that shower down in this ugly adaptation.