SDCC: Comic-Con Feels the Max Payne


20th Century Fox kicked off Comic-Con’s famed Hall H programming with a wallop, first with footage from the upcoming remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, then with the world’s first look at the new Max Payne movie starring Mark Wahlberg.

They started things off with dark, shadowy footage that evoked the same gritty feel of the video game as we see a figure walk into a building and up some stairs carrying a handgun. The camera closes in to show that it’s Mark Walberg as police officer Max Payne, as he enters a dark apartment calling for someone named “Alex.” He slowly walks through the apartment and we see his view of the dark halls, and we catch a glimpse of a dead body on the ground at the end of the hallway (I’m guessing that’s Alex) and the camera closes in on his head to show that his throat has been cut. As Payne approaches, he’s violently attacked and knocked to the ground, pulled through the pull of blood on the floor and fights with his assailant. He continues to fight and he drags himself across the floor that’s covered with glass. The entire sequence looked a lot like the video game with lots of close-ups of various bits of the action tightly edited together.

The lights came up to screams as Wahlberg himself was there, along with director John Moore (The Omen, Behind Enemy Lines, Mila Kunis who plays Mona Sax, and Chris Bridges aka Ludacris, who plays internal affairs agent Jim Bravura.

Mark Wahlberg was excited to be there, comparing the reception to doing a concert in Japan, where everyone cheers even if you don’t really say anything. “Now I know why the New Kids wanted to go back,” he joked. “It feels good. Makes me all warm in the pants.” This got huge laughs and applause from the audience.

“I read the script, and after ‘Invincible,’ ‘The Happening’ and ‘The Lovely Bones,’ I wanted to kick some ass again,” Wahlberg said when asked why he decided to take on the video game role. “I got an opportunity to do it in a way where I did more than I got to do in ‘The Departed’ and movies like ‘Four Brothers’ and ‘Fear,'” he continued. “This is those characters times ten. The guy’s driven by emotion, so people are going to understand why he’s so committed to cleaning the streets of the scum of the earth. I feel like with my street credibility and my arrest record, I was credible enough to play this role and make people feel like they’re going to get their money’s worth when they saw it. I think they will, because John really let me push it and again, it’s not a one-note performance. He really pushes the envelope so I’m excited for you guys to see it.”

Wahlberg talked a bit more about the character before they showed another clip: “This guy is really one of the happiest guys in the world. He’s got a beautiful wife and a beautiful child and that’s taken away from him and once that’s gone, he doesn’t really see much more hope for the world. He gives up on hope and humanity and it’s a dark, ugly world that Max lives and operates in and I think people are going to be really satisfied when they see the havoc that he wreaks on the evil in the world.”

The second clip started with Max Payne walking through the subway (the “Roscoe Street” station, in case you were interested in details) with the sound of a loud watch ticking. He walks by three sleazy-looking derelicts sitting on the bench, and as he passes, they glare at him, before getting up to follow behind him. Payne enters into the station’s men’s room and takes off his watch, placing it on the sink, and a few seconds later, the three guys follow him in, and the lead guy comments, “Yo homey, that’s a really nice watch. Reminds me of one I lost.”

“You didn’t lose it,” Payne responds. “I found it on 128th a few hours ago. Ask Doug, he was there with you.” (Doug is the nervous redhead who’s standing just to the right of the main guy.)

“Are you following us?” Doug asks.

“No,” Payne says coldly. “I’m only following you.”

Payne opens his coat to show his badge and the thug asks, “Hell, no. Are you a cop or something?”

“Not tonight,” Payne responds and takes his badge off.

“Well, that’s too bad, now go get my watch!” yells the thug while still holding a gun on Payne.

“Yeah, go get his watch,” Payne agrees.

Doug nervously moves forward but when he reaches for the watch on the sink, it drops to the floor and Max pounces, smashing one guy’s face into the sink and a gunfight ensues, Payne drops his empty gun into the sink and pulls out another one. One of the guys runs out of the bathroom and jumps down into the subway tracks to run away. The other guy jumps under the stalls, and Max starts blasting the doors of the stalls open one at a time while the guy scrambles underneath them until he’s finally cornered in the final stall. Payne confronts Doug and holds a picture of a woman right up to Doug’s face. “Open your eyes now! Have you ever seen this woman?”

There was a little bit more with the cast talking about the movie, Kunis claiming she learned how to take apart and put together guns, learned how to kick ass in high heels and had weapons training. “I got to beat Mark up,” she beamed.

Mark gave great lip service to Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, saying that his acting really impressed him, coming from the world of music and being skeptical of musicians who try to act, saying that they’re usually doing it to boost their music career, but he’s “taken on a role that’s written for an actor and I think he did an outstanding job.” (Someone joked that the character was originally written for Robert Downey Jr., referring to his character in Tropic Thunder.) Bridges’ infernal affairs officer is described as a “really noble character, one who’s more top of things than anyone else in the movie,” and Bridges added of his character, “He’s on Max Payne’s heels the entire movie, and everyone on the force is afraid of the guy because he’s onto everyone.”

John Moore used a new digital camera system for the movie called a Phantom, a digital hard drive that can shoot up 1,000 frames per second in order to slow down the motion to recreate the bullet time from the video games. “I’m no John Woo and no Wachowski Brothers, so we thought that ‘The Matrix’ and John Woo had done that technique extremely well, so we weren’t going to try to do an imitation of that, so we had to come up with our technique. We employed this new camera and I think we got some exciting results, which you’ll see in the movie.” Moore had also come up with a half-clever, half-cheesy tagline for the movie, which was “This isn’t minimum pain, this isn’t medium pain, this is Max Payne.” (Who knows if 20th Century Fox might actually use that in the advertising.)

They ended the panel by showing an extended clip reel of footage cut together especially for Comic-Con, which opened with a black and white 20th Century Fox logo that turns dark red. We see a body floating in the water, that of Payne, and you hear his gritty noir-inspired first person voiceover which starts, “There’s an army of bodies under this river… criminals” and it talks about how when they drain the river they’ll find him at the bottom with the rest of them, and the voicover says how he can feel the bodies reaching up to pull him down and welcome them as one of their own, as the camera pulls back to show the bodies floating beneath his. The camera then closes back in on the face of the as his eyes open with the line “It was an easy mistake to make.” The opening bars of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” kicks in and we got to see a lot of quick-cut images of Wahlberg’s Max Payne in action, lots of shooting and explosions, and a couple shots of the sexy Mila Kunis undressing, as well as an extended gunfight sequence between Max Payne and over a dozen guys in SWAT outfits in a large office with bullets flying everywhere, then Payne leaped forward and crashed through a door to escape. It was a really well-edited and tight reel ending with Wahlberg’s back to the cameras, as he arches backwards, flipping over as he fires a shotgun straight into the camera.

Having seen this footage and that for Lionsgate’s Punisher: War Zone (see our description here, there may be a real battle to see which movie is the most violent and stylish crime thriller of the fall, and Max Payne will have some more modern noir company when Frank Miller’s The Spirit opens later in December. (You can read about that Comic-Con panel here.) If you’re into the “Max Payne” video games or just love violent gun-frenzied action flicks, you should have more than enough to keep you smiling this fall.

Max Payne opens on October 17.

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