Allow me to get this out of the way: if you have not played any of the Max Payne video games you can't appreciate this movie or get into it.
That being said, if you have played the games you will find this movie amazing.
Keeping this in mind, it is irrelevant to explain the premise of the film - either you have played the games and should know the story, in which case you should see it as soon as you can. Or you haven't played the games, don't already know the story and the meaning, and should not see the movie.
What Max Payne achieves as a movie is what all video game inspired films should strive for. The game(s) are a legend amongst the gamer community for their groundbreaking storyline, character depth and style. The first game was a representation of how an awesome video game could have an amazing story behind it as well, and the movie has done the same.
This movie was perfect in its adaption of Max to the big screen, from Mark Wahlberg's mantastic portrayal of Max himself to the aesthetically perfect environment around him. Yes, there are little things that were staples of the games that were missing from the film (such as painkillers, aww) but they were things that would have made the movie un-movie like. Similarly, director John Moore (Flight of the Phoenix, Behind Enemy Lines) did a magnificent job of taking the "gameplay" so to speak, out of the action without ruining the action itself. What follows are some beautiful gunfights staged within scenary that is almost directly out of the game. The result will have fans in the audience shivering uncontrollably and urgently button mashing a game controller that isn't there. One scene in particular, when Max enters the Rag-Na-Rock club for the first time and moves down the hallway shotgun raised, made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
Now the film itself was beautiful. The art direction of this movie had my inner cinematographer nearly soiling himself. Issues that the audience will find will almost certainly center around performances by the actors. For one thing, Mila Kunis's character of Mona was completely lacking in substance. Of course, the film makers obviously chose not to develop Mona or make her very important except as a guntoting, female badass. As soon as that became apparent I stopped paying any attention to her, which is what Moore must have been going for because it was remarkably easy. Beau Bridges as BB was terrible. I firmly believe that had this role been filled by a more talented and engaged actor most fan members in the audience would have a very difficult time finding anything else wrong with this movie.
(on a side note, Ludacris was surprisingly good as Lt. Bravura - much better than his other rapper-turned-actor contemporaries)
I personally felt that the script was well written, with some fantastic lines that are dropped every once in a while. The biggest issue I had here was the almost complete lack of humor and rarely seen over-the-top action dialogue that made scenes from the games so engaging. But again, I think that if BB had been a more exciting character and was focused on more than Lupino was, these lackages would have been a minor annoyance.
The final verdict stands: I really enjoyed this movie. I appreciated its ability to stay true to the material without making a stupid, gunfight polluted debauchery of a movie and I absolutely loved the way it was shot. Again, I don't think that anyone who hasn't played the games can appreciate this movie. If you fall into that category, spend your money seeing Sex Drive or save it for Quantum of Solace. If you played the games, see this movie for no reason other than it captures the most important parts of the games you so dearly love without being stupid.