Max Payne 3’s São Paulo is a diseased body infected with corruption, and every cell is exposed in some way, either helping spread the disease or dying because of it. Max Payne isn’t the cure of São Paulo’s rot, but a small antibiotic dose that can only hold the bacteria back for a small time. A rot that exposes class warfare, familial betrayal and the lows of what it is to be human.
Though Max is the main character of this tale, his fall is not the centre piece, instead that dubious honour belongs to the Branco family. The Branco brothers, who consist of Rodrigo, Marcelo and Victor, are the richest of the rich, with their own castle overlooking the desperate poor who live below in the favelas. It’s this close proximity of the high end apartments and the decrepit homes that really goes to show just how classes relate to each other, the rich dominating the poor.
Everything that happens at the top of the tower directly affects what happens at the bottom, all of which are consequences of the actions of the Branco brothers, though only one is really to blame. Victor is the most ambitious brother, where Rodrigo is the more concerned and reasonable, and Marcelo the party king. It’s Victor’s ambition that sparks and eventually leads to the destruction of the Brancos, and those who relied on them.
From the perspective of Rodrigo we see that he, as the oldest brother, has inherited the most wealth and the worries it brings. Rodrigo is stressed as he tries to manage his father’s businesses and the demands of his brothers. He is a reserved man who prefers peace rather than glamour. Rodrigo is a realist, knowing his wife is with him for his money, and knowing he has to maintain the funds he is given properly, so that his brothers don’t waste it all away on campaigns and parties. This makes him a roadblock and target for Victor, so he is assassinated.
Marcelo is the youngest of the brothers, receiving the smallest cut of the pie mostly due to his excessive socialising. Marcelo just wants to have fun wherever, whenever, and with whoever he wants, from yacht parties to exclusive club parties. He throws his money down looking for his next high, whether drug induced or otherwise. He does all this because he knows that he will never be the one to run things or be the one people depend on. Even with all those who surround him at the gatherings he has, he is alone. To Victor this makes Marcelo exploitable and expendable, so he is burnt alive to try and get more support for Victor’s political moves.
Victor is power hungry. From his own perspective he sees himself as the man to elevate himself and the Branco name to new heights, outdoing anything his brothers or father did, no matter the cost. His motives are purely self-centred and he knows it, using anything and anyone to gain public support for his political campaign. Victor has power over the police force and uses it like his own personal army to carry out operations that provide money for his continued campaign.
The biggest operation is also the most horrifying, where Victor is the head of a major organ harvesting ring, literally gutting the poor who live in the favelas. It’s not just the existence of the operation of that is disturbing, but the fact Victor managed to convince so many to take part in it, from the police force to a surgeon. This all shows how long Victor has been planning to become a major player in Brazil’s political scene.
Not once are we shown Victor having doubts over the actions he will take, unless these manifested themselves before the introduction of Max into his life. Maybe they were never there, showing Victor had no sympathy or empathy, confident in all his strategies to rise to the top. His confidence was his undoing because he didn’t plan for failure, the biggest one having Max take the fall for the Panama job, where wealthy revelers died.
From here, Victor kept planning to get rid of Max, underestimating his will to survive even after the tragic life he had led up until this point. Without Victor’s failure to bring Max down, after introducing him to the Brazilian social ecosystem, Victor would have easily made it to the very top, using the deaths of his family as campaign fodder. Eventually he would have probably turned on the police members who helped him, ensuring that no one would discover his past. It’s likely Victor had ways of discrediting them already planned.
Max Payne 3 is a commentary on the disparity between classes and the lengths people will go to gain power. It sends a message in how a select few can control the destinies of many with almost real consequence. If Max hadn’t decided to risk his life and bring down the whole operation, Victor would have had victory. Instead the lesson here is that anyone can fight corruption with enough determination alone.