When our friend Neil joined the Church of Scientology, we felt it was our moral duty to extricate him from the vile cult. Partly, this was because it’s a hideous organisation, and partly because he seemed so damn happy, and that was making us feel bad. Accordingly, Dave and Oliver have kidnapped Neil from his Scientology-approved suburb, locked him in a basement and tried to come up with ways of breaking through the fog of absolute meaningless nonsense and bring him back to civilisation – so that he can go back to slowly drinking himself to death and crying in front of Tekken 4 like he used to. It’s the kindest thing we can do in the circumstances. We tried all sorts of approaches – from slapping Neil in the face to slapping him on the side of the face – but nothing seemed to work until we hit on the brilliant idea of fighting bullshit with bullshit. And there’s nothing more bullshit than movies based on video games.
Movie Number One – Max Payne
Max Payne was a 2001 video game that involved diving sideways in slow motion while shooting things, and a voice over that was so utterly noir it made Sin City look like a pastel shirt. It gave videogames the concept of bullet time and showed that you could make bad writing into a feature if you were smart about how you did it. It was great, great fun. The film adaptation was made in 2008 and features Mark Wahlberg in the title role of the detective trying to find out who killed his family while stemming the tide of deadly hallucinogens on the streets. It is unsurprisingly absolutely awful.
Max Payne is a perfect movie for challenging someone’s belief system, since it doesn’t make any sense at all. The plot involves a drug that is flooding the streets despite the fact that its main effect is to make people go completely insane and then kill themselves. Mark Walhberg exudes all the gritty pathos of a sofa in the title role as he shambles confusedly from one plot point to the next. The writers have taken the daring step of removing the voice over that was the game’s signature, along with most of the diving sideways and shooting things that was the games other signature, and what you are left with is a very boring man investigating crimes that make no sense and rummaging through a lot of paperwork. Max Payne rummages through a hell of a lot of paperwork in this movie. The final thirty minutes – when Payne takes massive amounts of drugs and goes apeshit insane – step up a bit but it’s too little too late and it still doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
The worst thing about this movie is that they seem to have failed to understand the postmodern hard-boiled tone, the ridiculous voiceover, the bizarre incorporation of Norse mythology and the hilarious writing that made the game such fun, and gone for a halfway point between that and a straightforward cop movie. Why go for a semi-serious tone? He’s called Max Payne for God’s sake! You’d have as much chance making a serious movie with a character named Jesus Christobel McAwesomecop. There are a few moments that get it, like a when a character barks “His Wife and Kid were murdered – that’s his story!”, but mostly the writing is confused and inept.
The second worst thing about this film is Mark Wahlberg. Max Payne in the game had a look about him – specifically a look of glacial constipation – but Mark Wahlberg somehow manages to look even dumber and more awkward throughout this movie. His default expression is that of a scrotum concentrating. When you’ve been out-acted by single still photograph of a grimacing Finnish game developer pasted onto a low-poly character model, it’s time to start asking yourself the hard questions.
The film occasionally looks quite nice, capturing the limited palette and general look of the game well. And sometimes it goes really crazy, with huge angel / valkyrie things swooping about the place, but mostly it’s just crap.
This is an awesome film that really shows kids how dangerous drugs really are. Mark Wahlberg isn’t a Scientologist sadly, he’s a member of the Roman Catholic faith which really is a cult, but I’d like to think he could join us one day. Everyone knows that drugs are bad, in fact pretty much every problem ever has been linked to some kind of substance abuse and the doctors don’t really want to help. Scientologists don’t need drugs; when they get to the right OT level they gain complete control of their lymphatic system, which is what gives Tom Cruise his bubbly effervescence that so charms the ladies. I thought it was sad that Max Payne chose to use drugs and guns to deal with his issues instead of a sequence of auditing from a fully trained auditor; its not a good message to send to the kids that massive doses of psychosis-inducing hallucinogens are a way of dealing with your problems. Oliver and Dave started howling abuse and throwing things at the screen whenever Mark Wahlberg was on screen staring moodily into the distance, I think they may have some kind of personality problems too.
Our first attempt to deprogram Neil was a complete failure. Not only was there no noticeable effect on the subject, but Dave and Oliver are ironically less psychologically stable than they were at the start of the experiment. Come back next week, when we administer a massive dose of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li right up his brain.