Movie Review – The Marine (2006)
by JAMES BRIGHAM
Besides myself, does anybody out there ever wonder if more than a few major Hollywood players making pictures today aren’t secretly pyromaniacs or sex addicts? Action movies are particularly responsible for stirring this line of questioning. At a certain point, I think that some of the people behind the scenes might have spent a bit too much time as youths either a.) Digging holes in their backyard, filling them with gasoline, and dropping in lit matches or b.) Watching their hot next-door neighbor undress via telescope. Think about it – how many times do you, as an audience member, really have to see a fiery car explosion in order to understand the plot? What does a shot of a lingerie clad woman do to advance your understanding of her character? Spectacle and titillation, my friends. You typically won’t find yourself muttering such questions in a film with depth, but in a superficial flick like The Marine, those factors are as prevalent as inflatable animals at a public pool’s shallow end.
World Wrestling Entertainment Films produced The Marine; it stars John Cena (one of their more recent breakout performers) as John Triton, a muscle bound, man of action whose military career has been unexpectedly cut short due to his inability to follow orders. Apparently, the chain of command has to be followed, no matter how much al-Qaeda ass is kicked during hostage rescues. Who knew? Cena, er, I mean Triton, is then honorably discharged from the marines and is forced to spend days rolling around with Kate (Kelly Carlson), his nubile, neglected wife. This pastime proves to be un-fulfilling as Triton is soon complaining about how he can’t just “sit around the house all day.” He gets a job as an office building security guard, but is promptly fired for throwing an employee’s jerk of an ex-boyfriend through a window. Again, who knew?
Triton and his wife decide to get away for a while and take a trip up to a remote cabin hideaway. Unfortunately, our poor marine can’t catch a break as he inadvertently ends up stopping at the same gas station a group of criminals happens to be fueling up at. Later, after a shootout with the cops and a ginormous fire, John (Triton, not Cena) wakes up to find that Kate’s been kidnapped by an elite band of jewel thieves. The ex-marine then furiously runs away in slow-mo while a wall of flame blasts behind him. I’m glad Triton never listened to those lying phonies in grade school that kept spreading this “stop-drop-and roll” nonsense. Our hero proves that the only way to survive death by such means is to sprint and jump, preferably towards a camera.
So with that unexpected turn of events, we’re introduced to the plot hook that will pull us through the remainder of The Marine. The rest is essentially a prolonged chase picture with John matching wits with the gang’s leader, Rome (Robert Patrick), and occasionally offing one his elite henchmen. And by “elite,” I mean incompetent. On top of that, they’re also generic to the point of absurdity. When a henchmen’s sole defining trait is his possession of a wicked looking knife, that’s lazy screenwriting. When that same henchman also never gets to use the knife in any way, shape, or form, that’s straight up stupefying. Throw in a psychotic who keeps referencing sexual abuse involving rock candy at summer camp, a hissing villainess girlfriend, and a guy with long hair, and you’ve got yourself a crew fit to give Hans Gruber’s team a run for their money in the bad guy department. Triton cuts through these jokers so fast that the movie actually has to throw in a couple of unrelated drug dealers who come out of nowhere in order for the marine to pound some more mooks into pulp and extend its short runtime.
Honestly, Patrick’s Rome is the highlight of this movie. As is often the case with films from the action genre, the villain ends up overshadowing the rest of the production. In The Marine Patrick doesn’t so much chew up scenery as slyly subvert it. He’s crazy and greedy, to be sure, but he executes his lines with a laid back charm and injects the occasional bit of zany that the film needs a lot more of. Rome interrupts a tense phone negotiation with a shadowy ally in order to answer a call waiting on his recent purchase of cable service. Later, while the hoods are tromping through a swamp, Rome begins to earnestly ask why so many aspects of life have to be defined by one’s race and concludes with the query, “Why can’t we all just be people?” It makes me chuckle just thinking about it.
Laughs go a long way with me when it comes to judging a mediocre film. The well-timed insertion of an unexpected joke, a sight gag, or a self-conscious musing can make all the difference when an action movie lacks things like complex and impressive fight choreography, off-kilter camera angles, or gratuitous nude scenes. These are all things that The Marine, frankly, could have used more of. Cena’s character was about as ho-hum as a protagonist gets, despite the fact he displays an engagingly charismatic persona on WWE RAW on a weekly basis. He’s got all the makings of a classic wiseass, action hero. I mean, look at the guy! Cena’s even got a Bruce Campbell / Doc Savage jaw line thing going for him. That jaw’s so square it could be used as a diagram on a high school geometry midterm. Punch up this guy’s dialogue a bit and you’ll increase his drawing power exponentially.
As it stands, The Marine is just a time-filler rental, lacking the exciting action sequences, killer dialogue, or pandering content that would be necessary to make it stand out from the rest of the movie herd. Bigger budgets and better directors have resulted in classics like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, True Lies, and The Rock. Crazier and more impressive battle exploits can be found in such straight-to-video titles as U.S. Seals II and Bloodmoon. Hell, there’s even actiongirls.com, if you’re into an unabashed merging of sex and violence – have your cake and eat it too while watching naked ladies shoot flamethrowers, practice martial arts katas, or dodge pursuing tanks. My point, and I do have one (thanks, Ellen!), is that in this age of the action moviemaking game, the filmmakers really need to go above and beyond the baseline. The audience wants a smarter script, a bit of fan service, an insane action sequence, and/or a bunch of funny dialogue nowadays. It’s apparent that The Marine needed a bit more time in boot camp before being approved for field duty.