Despite my love of weird, artsy movies, I’ve got soft spots for schlock and Big Dumb Action Movies. Commando, Predator, Crank are all well within my wheelhouse, and while I thought at most of these films were stuck in the ’80s or only found in crazy neo-grindhouse directors like Neveldine/Taylor, turns out I only needed to look at the most popular modern incarnations of Big and Dumb and Action. Lucky for me, they all reside in the same thing: WWE Wrestling.
The Marine is a 2006 action movie starring John Cena as John Triton, a marine who is honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps for single-handedly annihilating an Al-Queda base in Iraq against orders. Once he’s reintegrated back into the normal, mundane life of being a war-hero-turned-office-security-guard, he finds himself yearning to use the skills he learned out on his tour of duty that would get him arrested or fired here. Lucky for Mr. Triton, his wife gets kidnapped by some high profile diamond thieves (read: his wife gets plot deviced by some shoehorned plot devices) while they’re at a gas station, and BAM!
John Triton gets to go on a wild rampage across rural America to save his wife by murder, violence, explosions, guns, guns, boom, pow, running, jumping, car chase, running, blam blam blam, ka-pow! Maybe an American bald eagle soars in the distance, I don’t know. This movie was a flurry of blows to the senses, so it’s hard to write about it coherently. It’s produced by WWE Studios, which I always dismissed as being the producers of low budget, low quality action flicks that are just made to cash in on the success of whatever wrestler is popular at the time and while I can’t vouch for any of their other movies, they’ve definitely marked themselves on my radar after watching The Marine.
This is a simple movie. John Cena kicks ass and wins at everything, the end. The Marine follows the Rule of Cool to a T, and doesn’t give two shits about what you think. It is here to entertain, and entertain it does. Sure, you could tear it apart from a film making standpoint, but why would you? The Marine doesn’t pretend to be anything deeper than non-stop action involving hunky dudes just for the sake of it. I was watching it while on vacation in America, and while I was already hyped on uber-American culture from my trip, seeing this film start with John Cena in a marine outfit saluting in front of a gigantic waving American flag was just overwhelming. I was sold on The Marine from the first frame.
80’s throwbacks have been in fashion recently, but considering he Marine came out nearly ten years ago, and it’s reckless abandon in trying to capture the spirit of the invincible-one-man-army movies of the 1980s, it might succeed at being a throwback better than more recent flicks that similarly play on style nostalgia. Seeing John Cena lumber around making dumb faces through every scene is always hilarious and while he’s a terrible actor through and through here, he still somehow brings a simple charisma to the screen that you can’t ignore. In fact, the whole cast does. The script is laughably bad, but when you can tell how much fun everyone is having making the movie, you can forgive it somewhat. Robert Patrick (T-1000 from Teriminator 2) even hams it up playing the big bad guy, Rome. He does a great job portraying a complete sleazeball, but he never falls into mustache-twirling villain territory, even though he has kidnapped a damsel in distress.
Since this is an action movie after all, it makes sense to discuss the action. First off, there is a lot of action in The Marine. Car chases, foot chases, boat chases, fist fights, knife fights, gun fights, you name it, it’s in there. The direction and editing in The Marine is nigh incomprehensible. It fails at fulfilling the two main aspects of modern action film making: Coherency and Geography. Fight scenes are shaky and hard to follow with split-second cuts, geography is never established leading to confusing scenes and hard to follow layouts. I know this sounds bad, and it is, but it’s all worth it for the times they do it right. When the action hits in The Marine, it hits hard. You get the big money shots in full unbroken detail. John Cena jumping out of an explosion (to which he does no fewer than three times in this flick): you can see the whole explosion tear through the set. John Cena chokeslams a mook into a crate or tackles a henchman through a cement pillar: it’s all in one, unbroken shot. You can feel the wood chips and cement dust kicking up from the blow. How about driving a semi truck straight through an exploding propane storage warehouse (because of course they have to)? You get it in full, wide, long takes so you can soak in every inch of the ridiculousness.
I feel like I’m writing in circles here. By all accounts, The Marine should have been a complete abortion of a movie. And while it seems to garner a bit of hate (which I think is more due to John Cena starring than the film itself), I think it totally holds up and deserves to be on any action movie lover’s DVD shelf. It doesn’t come close to holding a candle to films like The Raid, or Hard Boiled, it’s still a great way to spend 90 minutes with some beer, wings, and friends. The Marine is a Big Dumb Action Movie. The Marine is the Big Texan 72oz steak eating competition. The Marine is getting three sides and biscuits complementary with your $9 meal at Cracker Barrel.
The Marine is America.
Movie Pairing: Commando (1985). Have a beefy double header for movie night and at the end, argue with your friends over whether John Triton or John Matrix would win in a fight (Hint: It’s John Matrix).
Drink Pairing: An ice cold six pack of Budweiser tall cans. Not the un-American standard ones, but the special ones that came out last year. The ones literally branded with the word America instead of Budweiser. They might taste like ass, but God damn if it isn’t the most patriotic thing ever created.