You'd be forgiven for mistaking "Max Payne" as being an extended episode of one of the many TV legal dramas, except set in Sin City. It's actually New York, but I doubt anyone watching it would really care. Just like they wouldn't care who Max Payne is in the movie or why he's on a mission to find the man responsible for his family's murder. Revenge is a dish best served cold, yes, but "Max Payne" feels dead on arrival.
Like a pissed off, younger Lieutenant Columbo (another TV reference!), Malk Wahlberg as Payne prowls the streets and alleys trailing long shadows behind him. The film is based on a video game, but feels like it was based on a lullaby or is itself a video game being played out. Actually, that last analogy would be an insult to the original game which, ironic as it is, was modeled after Hong Kong movies and in particular, the now overused bullet time sequences from "Matrix". The games other defining factor was its dark, sarcastic, extremely quotable first person narration, which were as eloquent as they were witty.
Very little of both is found in the film, and that isn't close to being its main problem. What the movie seems to have somehow done is arranged the games many sporadic plots and threads into an incoherent, disengaged whodunit. It is so focused on telling its story that there are about half a dozen flashbacks to the murder of Payne's wife alone, none of which create the empathy they aim for. Forgetting that games are popular not necessarily for their stories, just like comic books aren't necessarily championed for their thematic depth or literary impact, the film ends up turning into an enduring punishment, one that lasts as long as the duration of the film. - Faizan Rashid