001BUY IT AT AMAZON: CLICK HERE
STUDIO: Fox
MSRP: $14.99
RATED: PG-13/Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Unrated edition features both theatrical and unrated versions on one disc
  • “The Making of The Marine” featurette

  • John Cena Profile

  • John Cena Military History

  • Cena Basic Training

  • Cena’s Aussie Day Off

  • World Premiere at Camp Pendelton

  • WWE Promotional Features

  • Stuck in the Elevator

THE PITCH

Man on Fire with raised stakes – ’cause we all know hot chicks are way more important than some weepy little kid…

THE HUMANS

WWE’s John Cena, Kelly (Starship Troopers II) Carlson, Robert (T2) Patrick, Anthony Ray (The Matrix) Parker

THE NUTSHELL

After the Marine Corps discharges him for Excessive Heroism, John Triton (Cena) returns to a civilian life no serviceman could possibly afford. After losing a Rent-A-Cop gig for Excessive Beating Up a Douchebag – John Triton decides to take a weekend trip to clear his head. Joining him on his trek is the wife no serviceman could afford – Kelly Carlson.

They hit the open road – and about three minutes later, they run afoul of the comically sinister Rome (Patrick) and his International House of Thuggery, a cabal of jewel thieves on the run.

The criminals kidnap hotness, and Triton’s on their trail.

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“It woulda’ been cooler if I was the ‘I’…”

THE LOWDOWN

It’s funny that, whenever someone criticizes wrestling, they do so by saying that these guys aren’t athletes – they’re “actors”. But when these “actors” step in front of a camera – critics hit them with, “This guy can’t act.” Suddenly these performers can’t do what it’s been claimed they’ve been doing for years. Never give a wrestler an even break, I guess…

And the reason for that, I’d wager, is Vince McMahon. The owner and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, McMahon loses court cases he should win because of his reputation. Chances are, even if you are a fan of Professional Wrestling, you don’t like Vince McMahon.

So it’s no wonder that, most of the time, mainstream press is devoted to ripping his every endeavor to shreds. Let’s look back at the XFL…

The football – not good. That the cheerleaders had story arcs – no. That McMahon was compelled to make his presence known during broadcasts – ill-advised.

And yet – and yet…

Every time the camera soars just over the tops of the player’s heads as the QB unloads, you’re seeing what I like to call “The McMahon Cam” – as the first time it was ever used was in the XFL. Every time cameras hop into the broadcast box, and our commentary guys blather whilst standing in front of some animated display – that’s the XFL influence again. And when someone on the sidelines tells you about some player’s mom being sick or wife being preggers – XFL.

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So this is a fantasy film…

His brand may not have been very dynamic on the field – but the presentation has found its way to where the big boys play.

McMahon will never get any credit for that – because anything he’s got on offer can’t be all that great, right? Witness the difficulty with which Dwayne Johnson has met in his quest for a career.

Talented? Check. Charismatic? Check. Handsome? Check. Despite these quintessentially “Hollywood” attributes, it took a long time for many to acknowledge his natural wattage (and some would say it hasn’t really happened yet) because he comes from that pro wrestling world. That Vince McMahon world.

Perhaps Vince has tired of losing his roster to film roles (as “terrible” as they are at it, they keep getting work). Perhaps he wants to try his hand at diversifying his brand…

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“Got this vest cheap from the Wesley Snipes IRS estate sale…”

For whatever reason, Vince McMahon has entered into feature film production. And his highest profile project yet – unless you count The Scorpion King (which you really can’t, even though Vince may want to) – would be the new John Cena vehicle, The Marine.

Cena, for the uninitiated, is currently World Wrestling Entertainment�s World Champion and biggest star – and for good reason.

Handsome? Check. Talented? Check. Charismatic? Check. Fact is – he�s a breakout star on the level of a Rock – and for many of the same reasons. His in-ring character is very contemporary, he has great comic timing, and he has the looks to moisten the anderwers of a large part of the female demographic.

Were he to have arrived in a time when the grappling juggernaut was more popular with the public at large (wrestling is a cyclic business – sometimes it’s the hottest thing on the planet, sometimes nobody gives a rat’s. That said – it’s always a sellout at Madison Square Garden), he’d probably be the guy hosting Saturday Night Live.

It is disappointing then to say that The Marine – a vehicle created for Cena – does its star a disservice.

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“You may already be a corpse – er, I mean – a winner!”

Instead of allowing him to employ his wise-ass charm, Cena is forced to play it murderously straight as John Triton (a name that still fills me with giggly glee – since it is undoubtedly a reference to the John Fasano/John Mikl Thor classic Rock N’ Roll Nightmare) – a Marine discharged for disobeying orders to not rescue his comrades-in-arms before they get decapitated by Al-Qaeda (which certainly has become the preferred nomenclature for brown villainy nowadays, hasn’t it?).

This sequence lets you know right away where you are – in 198X. Cena’s face is painted with the 40-degree-angle black camo Shatzi applied some twenty-odd years ago in Commando, he’s out to rescue POW’s, and he’s going to defy a direct order to do it – the only 1980’s crapactioner not getting cribbed would be The Delta Force – and Matrix composer Don Davis takes care of that, as Cena busts through a wall and kills everyone not white accompanied by a hilariously OTT guitar-and-synth score.

The opening five minutes of The Marine goofs on every film Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone, and Chuck Norris made from about 1984 to 1989, and Cena makes with every kind of death that (sadly) doesn’t involve a ninja star or devil dart (there’s kung-fu, gun-fu, knife-fu, burning guy through window-fu, stomping on a guy’s melon-fu). It’s breathtakingly retarded. And awesome. But also retarded.

Months later, we’re in Germany, where we discover that Triton lives to ROCK – er, is fresh out of appeals with regard to a discharge for rescuing his compatriots. Despite this obviously shoddy treatment, he’s not ready to leave the Corps.

I’m a Marine,” he tells the officer with the discharge papers.

One of the best.” The man replies. “Don’t forget that.”

And Hans Zimmer’s lone horn mourns – as do we all.

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“Discharged?� But I didn’t even get to fight orcs on a giant chessboard…”

The only thing left for Triton to do is return to the world – and his wife Kate (Nip/Tuck’s Kelly Carlson). After a suitable display of warmth (and pecs), Triton announces that he’s tuning his weapons – er, I mean – he’s entering the private sector.

Let’s see…weapons training and tactics…demolitions…hand to hand combat – personal security for celebrities? Consultant to film and television?

Rent-a-Cop…in an…office…building…?

His first day on the job is at the end of the first act – so you know he won’t be keeping it. He’s also not leaving without a fight. An altercation with an asswipe means a shattered window and a pink slip. Kate – utterly supportive military wife that she is – says that the two of them should just get away for a while…maybe to a farmhouse/recording studio in Canada-

I’m sorry. I’ll stop.

The couple plans a road trip into the mountains.

Meanwhile, in snazzy downtown Melbourne (standing in for one of the American Carolinas, if memory serves) a jewel heist is being perpetrated by roguish nutjob Rome and his band of meanies – among them the hilarious Anthony Ray Parker – who, upon seeing a squad car approach the scene, opens fire with a rocket launcher – sending the squad car thirty feet into the air in a ball of CGI flame.

Parker joins his partners and asks, “Too much?”

The entire flick is too much. And it doesn’t stop for anything. Not story. Not logic. Not common sense or human decency.

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“…it really was such a good vibration, though…”

The crooks stop for gas and get found out by the fuzz – which forces Parker’s hand again. He shoots a cop (his character, he explains, hates two things – “cops…and rock candy.” We never figure out his beef with the law – but we are treated to a demented monologue about his disdain for the confection in question), blows up a gas station (Patrick’s reaction to this is priceless) and steals Triton’s SUV – with a terrified Kate still inside.

So now the flick becomes Man on Fire II: The Quickening – only literally so, as Triton chases the criminals from one absurdly incendiary set piece to another.

And when I say “incendiary”, I mean it. This movie has some of the biggest pyro gags I’ve ever seen. It’s as if the filmmakers sat down and had this chat:

“Okay – we’ve got a pretty by-the-numbers story here, how do we distinguish it from the other sorta’ B-action flicks on the field?”

“Really concentrate on motivation and characterization?”

“Vince McMahon is executive producing this film.”

“Make every character borderline retarded and blow up all of Australia?”

“Perfect. Good talk.”

Along the way, Robert Patrick orders cable, Don Davis intentionally apes Carl Stalling’s Looney Tunes incidentals and Harry Manfredini’s Friday the 13th stings, there’s tons of high-impact hand-to-hand combat, and we learn that – despite the evidence at hand – Kelly Carlson’s rack does not serve as a flotation device.

The grand finale takes place in a dilapidated boathouse – which, by the way, looks highly flammable. The film adds chainsaw-fu to its impressive tally (not since Conan Lee in Tiger on Beat…) before the whole place goes up – and T

riton accepts the challenge – er, leaps through the center of the blast completely unscathed. When one of the criminals says early on that this guy’s “like the Terminator” – he wasn’t kidding.

Of course, that remark doesn’t sit well with Patrick…

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Don’t make Matt Damon angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Hey – you don’t suppose Robert’ll leap out of the boathouse wreckage for one last go? Is he going to have crazy eyes and awesome burn makeup? Was there a time when this role would have gone to William Smith or Richard Lynch?

First time director John Bonito kicks this thing in the ass. He walks a line between “dimwitted action spectacle” and “

knowing parody of dimwitted action spectacle”. This is a film where Robert Patrick closing a car door is done in slow motion with an accompanying “whoooosh” – this is a film where the camera is doing so much dollying that both John Woo and Ryuhei Kitamura are like, “Why all the dollying?” Bonito runs through the list of action movie cliches and giggles at each one on his way to the next.


“How should we light this setup?”

“Blue gel on one side of his face – orange on the other. Let’s do it.”

“When the hood gets blown off the car, make sure it flies right toward the camera. Oh – and add a ‘whoooosh’. Good talk.”

This movie may be called The Marine, but it’s totally devoted to its villains. It’s utterly refreshing for the criminals in this type of film to be to be scheming fuck-ups instead of malevolent Mensa members. At one point, Patrick’s Rome tells an accomplice “I’m makin’ this up as I go!” The last time Robert Patrick shone so brightly on screen he was made entirely of melty chrome. He’s joyously “on” for the entire film, and why not?

Anthony Ray Parker is the guy I waked away with real reverence for. His anti-discrimination rants…his assertion that “black men don’t camp“…his subsequent confession of a youthful camping trip gone wrong – astonishing.

For Cena’s part, he acquits himself acceptably as hulking hybrid of Jason Bourne and John Matrix – he says little and punches lots. With the right vehicle, he could go. With the not-so-hot-box office on this film…he might not get the chance.

Which is unfortunate, because we’ve all seen films assembled much worse than this win at the box office and receive critical acclaim. Think back to the great reviews given Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx, and you realize that these plaudits weren’t for the film (which is one of the most poorly constructed of Chan’s career – not counting any film where he stars with Chris Tucker) – they were a concerted effort by critics enamored with his work to help him “get over” in this country. That Schwarzenegger films like Raw Deal and Red Heat are well regarded…that people have a reverence for Bruce Lee movies…

The Marine is a more entertaining bit of fluff than a great many of the movies it pays homage to during its running time. It’s absurd and silly and mindless and it knows it.

Why then, was it given such a cold reception?


To this very day, Robert Patrick fights the urge to morph into Jenette Goldstein.


Ask Vince McMahon.

THE PACKAGE

The special features are much like the film itself – utterly superficial – with a touch of off-kilter humor. Witness John Cena – upon learning that Nip/Tuck vixen Carlson thinks he’s a great kisser – telling the documentary crew that he “wants to see the ‘Max Headroom‘ edit” on that statement…

and then – seconds, later – Carlson reappears, neon bars swirling behind her, stuttering through “John’s a great kisser-great-great-great-g-g-g-g great kisser!”

Is anyone in this flick’s target demo even going to get that reference?

The theatrical version and an “Unrated” version appear on the disc – which should have been easy, considering that it appears that the difference between the two is about twenty-some seconds. It’s extra squib hits, a head stomp, and few more brutal impacts. I checked.

The bulk of the features are WWE promotional bits – used during broadcasts to generate interest in the project. They’re inoffensive and nonessential – though a few of them do serve to illustrate the company’s commitment to entertaining our troops via the USO.

What would have been interesting would be an explanation of the filmmakers’ decision to make the film so much like a Warner Bros. Cartoon in its execution – and an exploration of how this didn’t sit very well with Mr. McMahon.

6.5 out of 10