A snitch warns him, "You're chasing ghosts, Max." Actually his foes are far scarier.
In pursuing his vendetta, he barges into a vast conspiracy involving an addictive experimental serum, Norse mythology, and ravenous angels of death.
His adversary-turned-ally in this murky mystery is the lethal Russian mobstress Mona (a shockingly grown-up and compelling Mila Kunis of That '70s Show).
Kunis is not by any means the only primetime immigrant on the screen. Keep your eyes peeled and you'll see TV troupers from Prison Break, The Wire, Heroes and Life.
The deep and eclectic cast is one of the most striking things about Max Payne. The film is stacked with names ranging from Beau Bridges and Chris O'Donnell to rapper Ludacris (Chris Bridges) and singer Nelly Furtado, both in dramatic roles.
That's an impressive crew for a pulp project, however stylish.
The action scenes in Max Payne are excellent, particularly a stunning shootout that exceeds anything since the first Matrix release. (Don't you think Sam Peckinpah is spinning in his grave with jealousy over all the toys that modern directors get to play with?)
Unfortunately, the film goes off the spool in the final reel as the supernatural elements, the weakest part of the story, take over completely. Then, the film disappointingly resorts to an artificially redemptive conclusion.
By the time Mona pleads with Max, "You have to finish this," you may be shouting the same thing at the screen.
Max Payne *** (out of four stars)
Directed by John Moore. With Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges. Distributed by 20th Century Fox Studios.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, adult themes, drug use and profanity)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at email@example.com or 215-854-4552. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/daveondemand.