Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Or, 'Marine!': "The Marine" (2006)

Imagine an action film directed by the guys who made "Airplane!" and "Top Secret!"...yes, I know it was called "Hot Shots!" but go with me on this one.

John Triton (John Cena) is booted out of the Marine Corps for disobeying an order and saving a bunch of hostages while on duty in Iraq. He comes back home to his big house and hot wife Kate (Kelly Carlson, which I misread as Kelly Clarkson and kept waiting for that American Idol chick to show up) and immediately takes a job as a security guard in an office building. That goes all sorts of wrong, he's fired, and the couple decide to take an extended vacation to get away from it all (apparently one of them has inherited a lot of money because no Marine can live like this under the rank of Brigadier General).

Kate gets kidnapped by a gang of jewel thieves headed by the very cool Rome (the very cool Robert Patrick). We see the heist in the beginning of the film in one dizzying over-directed scene. John survives A LOT of physical punishment as he pursues the gang, who try to negotiate the swamps of South Carolina.

"The Marine" is a big ugly cartoon. This was Cena's first starring role, and it shows. His physical screen presence is impressive, but then he tries delivering a line of dialogue. This film was tailor-made for his wrestling persona, and made for his fans as well. I've never watched anything WWE has put out aside from some of their films, so I have no reference point about Cena's role on the canvas.

John Bonito goes insane with his camera, and not in a good way. One shot of Rome simply getting out of a car and walking into the jewelry store is directed with quick cuts and lots of shots...but he is only walking into a jewelry store! The film is heavily padded, the ninety-one minute unrated version features endless sequences of John jogging around a swamp, and a seven minute closing credits crawl.

I liked the villains more than our hero. Robert Patrick is always good. Anthony Ray Parker steals his scenes as the unbalanced Morgan. There is one scene of dialogue in the middle of the swamp about racism that felt like it was from another movie, and had me laughing. Of course, the biggest laughs come from the action sequences. John takes more blows to the head than a professional football player, yet suffers none of the consequences. This film is infamous for having Triton survive THREE different exploding building sequences, hair and biceps intact. In one scene, Kate is handcuffed in a runaway truck as it barrels through a burning building, and I immediately thought of the sequence in "Top Secret!" with the runaway vehicle and the Pinto. EVERYTHING in this film blows up. EVERYTHING. The physics of the action sequences are astounding.

So maybe I'm being too hard on this. Maybe it's just a lark, and I should relax. I don't think so. The criminals are so sloppy and cartoonish that I think my chubby bald middle-aged self could bring them down. I don't take them as seriously as our main hero does, and "goofy action comedy" is not what the film makers had in mind. There is one scene where Rome takes a call to confirm an expanded cable television package he ordered, and I was tickled by that. Then, cut back to Triton, who should be suffering from brain damage, and the movie bogs down once again.

"The Marine" has prompted a couple of direct to video sequels, without Cena, and I think I'll skip those, too. Cena could be the next Dwayne Johnson if he played his cards right. (*) out of five stars.