Sunday, October 26, 2008

Max Payne

Year: 2008
Director: John Moore
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Amaury Nolasco, Chris O'Donnell, Olga Kurylenko

It's been quite a long hiatus from updating this blog, and now I've got computer problems too. But still, I've got this review to write, so here we go.

Max Payne is based on the popular videogame of the same name, and it tells the story of a cop named Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg), who hasn't been the same after the murder of his wife and child. Although he's been assigned to the cold case department, he still continues to investigate his family's death on his own.

One of his leads brings him to a Russian girl, Natasha (current Bond girl Olga Kurylenko). Later, Natasha winds up dead and Max is the prime suspect. Max's former partner Alex Balder (Donal Logue) knows Max is innocent, and discovers a connection between Natasha's death and the men who killed Max's family. But before he can tell Max, he winds up dead too.

With two people dead, Max teams up with Natasha's sister, Mona Sax (Mila Kunis) to find the men responsible. At the same time, Max's mentor BB Hensley (Beau Bridges) tries his best to keep Max out of trouble with the law, particularly Internal Affairs detective Jim Bravura (Ludacris).

If there's one thing that had me going for this film, it's the packaging. Director John Moore (Flight Of the Phoenix, Behind Enemy Lines) creates a comicbook like world where everything looks mostly bleak and grey, and the special effects used during the drug induced sequences are very cool. It also has an ass kicking soundtrack, and I also loved the innovative closing credit sequence, even though it makes the film look even more like a video game.

But unfortunately, the film fails elsewhere. Despite having a very capable cast, the script doesn't give them much to do or realistic things to say, except for Wahlberg, who's obviously the main star here. He fares only slightly better than in The Happening, giving yet another sterile performance. Bridges, whom I've not seen on film in a long time, does well in his mentor role. Kunis and Ludacris are wasted in this film, and it's sad, since I wanted to see more of Kunis in a darker role after watching her on That 70s Show, and Ludacris is a decent actor himself. Amaury Nolasco, who plays the villain Lupino, gets very little screen time as well.

Despite the film being 90 minutes long, it feels draggy, and the action sequences only start kicking in the last third of the film. And the ending doesn't quite feel complete either. Max Payne reminds me a lot of Hitman, another action film based on a videogame that also starred Olga Kurylenko. The similarities are apparent, though Hitman is a tad more daring in its execution. Here in Max Payne, there is a potential R-rated scene which was oddly altered, probably to qualify for the PG-13 rating to boost ticket sales.

It's not a bad film, but it's not very good either. It's too easy to forget you've watched it. (3.5/5)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Eagle Eye

Year: 2008
Director: D.J. Caruso
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis

After watching a string of films rating between bad and average the past month, I was looking forward to this movie. I've been totally psyched up for it ever since catching the adrenaline-pumping trailer two months ago.

Eagle Eye begins with the U.S. Secretary Of Defense (Michael Chiklis) reluctantly authorising a missile attack on a suspected terrorist in the Middle East without having 100% confirmation on the target. We then cut to a young man named Jerry Shaw (Shia Labeouf), an underachiever who works at a copy shop, struggles to pay the rent and doesn't get along with his dad. One day, he gets word that his twin brother Ethan, who is a member of the USAF, had died in a car accident.

Soon after, he discovers an extra US$750,000 in his bank account and a whole lot of stuff in his apartment that would make him look like a terrorist. Jerry then gets a call from a mysterious woman telling him that he has to do as she says or he dies. The FBI bust through his door and arrest him right there and then.....

Jerry tries to tell FBI agent Tom Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) that he's being set up, but Morgan refuses to believe him. And before you know it, the mysterious woman calls Jerry again and helps him escape police custody! How? Well, that's pretty amazing when you see it. Meanwhile, another unlucky individual, Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is also called up by the woman. Rachel happens to be a divorced mother who has just sent her son off on a school trip, and now she is being threatened to follow orders or her son dies. Jerry and Rachel end up together and are forced to do everything the voice tells them. Morgan teams up with USAF investigator Perez (Rosario Dawson) to find out what's going on. Perez suspects that all this is connected to Ethan's death, and her investigation leads back to the Secretary Of Defense.

Eagle Eye is based on an idea by Steven Spielberg who is also executive producer of the film. D.J. Caruso, who directed Shia in Disturbia, takes the helm. Caruso does well in keeping the audience on the edge of their seats by throwing one action sequence after another at them. There's nary a dull moment as we watch Jerry and Rachel outrun the Feds in a car chase, rob an armored truck and slide down airport conveyor belts, and more. It's quite interesting to see how this mysterious voice control everything around the protagonists, thereby enabling it to genuinely threaten their lives. The voice is able to follow their movements, track their whereabouts, listen in on their conversations, use electronic signboards to pass instructions, change traffic lights, control name it. It's the unseeable villain with the electronic hand of God. Whoa.

LaBeouf and Monaghan do well in their respective roles, not only by having good chemistry together, but also successfully making their characters believable. Thornton lends great support as the FBI agent trying his best to make sense of what's happening, and has the best lines in the film.

This film in essence, was meant to show the viewers how technology can be turned against us, especially now since we're all so reliant on it. And Caruso manages to get that point across, but there are some moments in the movie where I felt that it was too implausible to believe. But still, Eagle Eye certainly succeeds in thrilling and scaring us from start to finish. Recommended. (4/5)


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