Released: June 24th 2017
Beyond the unassuming side door entrance of the film premier’s venue, tucked in a corner of East London, laid a world of opulent décor, cocktail dresses and unreasonably beautiful people. The story of Max Payne is a sombre one, a tale where no one lives happily, a dimension dictated by the rules of film noir, the façade outside a fitting setting for the grit inherently ec within the series. Beyond the grandeur, a rustic cinema room with an Art Noveau flavour, here we were briefed by actor, director and writer Leroy Kincaide, whose passion for the project and the franchise poured forth from his every word. Leroy plays Jack Lupino, a more comical character from the series, a devil-worshipping drug lord by trade, but here we see a more calculating incarnation, someone colder, someone far more lethal.
A personality transplant of sorts, the more comical, less believable aspects of his character have taken form as Curtis Draven, a separate entity who encapsulates the more manic, seedier aspects of Lupino. Played by the incredible Jon Campling of now worldwide fame as King Regis of Final Fantasy XV, the pair deliver a knockout performance. Two villainous extremities that cement the quality of the production, a rawer focus on character and narrative opposed to Mark Wahlberg’s 2008 flop that suffered and gasped under the weight of a flashy and hollow production.
Retribution takes place between the first and second titles, exploring the doomed and impossible relationship between Max (Joan James Muixi) and Mona (Gracie Tyrrell). Our leading man of Hispanic descent is every fibre a cigarette-dusted New York-an, sullen yet severe, the action scenes are where he truly thrives, performing his own stunts. The iconic Bullet Time mechanic, influenced by the cinematic stunts of action films such as The Matrix and Blade, comes full circle and is the crux of the action scenes, Muixi swooping through the air as a few artful clicks bellow bullets through Lupino’s lackeys. These scenes are centre pieces that perfectly capture the action and style of one of gaming’s most beloved franchises, tightly translated into film.
Leading Max deep into a vortex of violence is Tyrrell’s Mona, the deadly beauty Max can never quite seem to grasp. Her performance is gracefully nuanced with a delivery that pays homage to some of her more famed quotes, fan-service of the highest calibre. However, the star of Retribution is undoubtedly Kincaide, not only for his savage yet scheming, brutal yet intelligent Lupino, but also for his ability to shift from actor to producer on the fly. A love letter to the franchise, where tight purse strings birthed inventive solutions, Retribution rights the wrongs of its limp Hollywood counterpart with tight editing, a stirring score and a concentrated cast.
The overall length is perfectly judged, with a doozy of a cliffhangers that eagerly beckons and deserves a continuation of what producing partners Kincaide and Chloe Chudasama have crafted, whether or not we will is something we’re “Payne-fully” eager to see!
Max Payne Retribution is a masterful tribute to the game that oozes a sense of earnest appreciation rarely seen elsewhere. The short time spent in the realm of vengeance and revolvers is thrilling and dynamic from start to finish, easily flooring other efforts with finesse. It’s been over 15 years since the first Max Payne was released, many thinking the noir of gaming had simply vanished with Rockstar’s third instalment in 2012. Here we see new life breathed into the aching world and hauntingly real characters of Max Payne, and it’s a rejuvenated world that needs to make a return.