BEVERLY HILLS, California — Despite what you may have heard, this weekend's "Max Payne""Max Payne" is not a video game movie. Instead, the new film starring Mark WahlbergMark Wahlberg, Mila KunisMila Kunis and Chris "Ludacris" BridgesChris "Ludacris" Bridges is a gritty detective flick that aims to follow a proud Hollywood tradition dating back to "L.A. Confidential," "Chinatown" and 1940s/1950s noir films such as "The Big Sleep."
It's just that — in going from Phillip Marlowe to Jake Gittes to the similarly world-weary, hard-living hero Max Payne — it took a PlayStation detour to inject new life into the genre.
"You get all the great elements of what the video game is all about, and then we take it to a whole other theatrical level," explained Ludacris, who appears in the film as a straight-shooting cop attempting to help Payne (Wahlberg) take down the street gang who murdered his wife and infant child. "You don't have too many movies where a man is avenging his family, his wife and his seed, and that right there makes it very dramatic."
"Did you just call it 'his seed'?" teased Kunis, who plays a gun-toting femme fatale in the flick. "I love Luda. I love him!"
During most press events promoting adaptations, the stars profess to be longtime fans of the video game or comic book they're bringing to the big screen. But, although "Max Payne" is based on the pulpy hit that reimagined noir as a bullet-time-flaunting third-person shooter, these actors make no secrets about their lack of time behind the controller.
"I didn't know it was based on a video game until after I read the script," Wahlberg grinned. "And that made me a little freaked out, because I grew up playing 'Pac-Man' and 'Asteroids' — there's no story."
"I play the game a little bit," Luda admitted.
"After seeing the game, I was very impressed," Wahlberg said of the fact that the "Payne" story line made for such a strong script, a testament to the game's narrative-heavy plot. "It's very elaborate stories, it's very cinematic, and video games have changed quite a bit since I was a kid."
By any account, the 37-year-old Oscar nominee has played the cop/ federal agent/ soldier role in several movies over the last decade but claims that this script took him places few others could. "This is like the 'Four Brothers''Four Brothers' character, who was not a cop but was close to it, and the 'Departed''Departed' character times 10," he explained. "I get to go off and go completely bananas from beginning to end. My family was brutally murdered, so I have a license to just go nuts on anybody and everybody — and that's a lot of fun."
"When I read the script, even the way things were described, I knew it would have a definite style about it," explained Hollywood veteran Beau Bridges, who plays Payne's high-powered friend B.B. in the movie. "And then I saw the video game, and that impressed me again. A real important element in this is the style, and [director] John Moore brought that. ... All the time through [filming], we were always conscious of who these people were, because I think that's what makes this video game stand out — that it had human elements in it that were important to the story. I've always felt in anything I've been in that the play is the thing, just like Shakespeare said a long time ago; it's still true."
From Shakespeare to Sega, "Max Payne" has traveled a unique path that makes it far more than your average video game movie. But now, Wahlberg jokes that he's so hooked on the genre, he might make more movies out of his favorite video games of all time.
"The last game I was addicted to was 'Sega Hockey' in '92, '93, when [the characters] were still fighting," he grinned. "Back when they would bust each other's heads open and blood would pour onto the ice — but I did that in 'Four Brothers' already."
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