So bad that it’s very nearly sublime, The Marine is easily the most enjoyable of the three mainstream movies that opened this week. The question of whether or not it’s enjoyable for any of the intended reasons is another matter, but in a week where I had to slog my way through The Grudge 2 and Man of the Year I’ll take what pleasure I can without too many questions. Then too, it is undeniable that this latest attempt from WWE Films to turn wrestling stars into movie stars is a good deal more effective than their previous effort this year, See No Evil. (Of course, Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) is more effective than See No Evil, so take that for what it’s worth.)
Don’t get the wrong idea, The Marine is not a good movie. It’s the cinematic equivalent of some guy who can’t scratch his name in the dirt with a stick. That, however, is its charm — something it needs with a star like John Cena who plays John Triton, aka: The Marine. Cena has no charm. Nor does he boast any acting ability. What he has is a lot of muscles — an absurd amount, in fact, and, judging by the vacuous look in his eyes, a quantity of them are between his ears. (Just when you think this boy can’t possibly look any dimmer, he awakens from having been knocked cold by a fire extinguisher with the kind of utterly uncomprehending expression one might reasonably expect were one to smack an ox in the head with a two-by-four.)
The movie opens with Triton in the thick of fighting an Al-Qaeda enclave in Iraq. He immediately disobeys a direct order and crashes through a wall (the purpose of doors seems to mystify him throughout the film) laying waste to robed and masked bad guys various and sundry — mostly by setting them afire with a large burning stick. Who knew that Arab terrorists were so highly flammable? (Let’s just hope the government doesn’t see this movie.) Of course, he gets kicked out of the Marines for disobeying an order, sending him home to his expensively peroxided wife, Kate (Kelly Carlson, TV’s Nip/Tuck), and an uncertain future. When he is unceremoniously fired as a security guard for his extreme method of ejecting a troublemaker (through a plate glass window), he and Kate decide to take a holiday in the mountains. (Someone should perhaps clue them in that heading south in South Carolina isn’t the most direct path to the mountains.)
Meanwhile, a genially psychotic jewel thief, Rome (Robert Patrick, Walk the Line), and his band of terminally stupid brigands — including his ill-tempered girlfriend (Australian TV actress Abigail Bianca) and hot-headed token black sidekick (Anthony Ray Parker, The Matrix) — have knocked over a jewelry store and blown up a police car with something like a small thermonuclear missile, and are, not surprisingly, on the lam. When they happen to be spotted at a convenience store/gas station, Rome naturally blows the place up and kidnaps innocent bystander Kate in case they need a hostage. This doesn’t sit well with Triton. Indeed, he’s kind of peevish about it — and the rest of the film follows his attempts to exact revenge and rescue Kate.
Apart from a lot of bickering among the bad guys — and a lame joke about Robert Patrick’s role in Terminator 2 (1991), along with a pretty good joke about the black guy’s aversion to rock candy — that’s all the plot there is. The rest consists of chases, gunplay, fights and blowing up a lot of stuff. It’s so absurd, so over-the-top, so downright silly that it can’t help being weirdly entertaining.
Direction from newcomer Jon Bonito is extremely adequate. The acting is no better than it deserves to be. The musical score by the usually-more-inspired Don Davis (maybe he got the joke?) is appalling, sounding, on those rare occasions when it can be heard over the gunshots and explosions, like something out of a porno film. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, sensuality and language.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke