You know how people are always saying they don't make 'em like they used to? Ha! What a load of crap.
After disobeying orders and wiping out a nest of al Queda terrorists during a rescue mission, Sgt. John Triton (World Wrestling Entertainment superstar John Cena) is discharged from the Marines and sent back to the States. He immediately accepts a job as a security guard at a ritzy office building, but is fired the first day for chucking an egotistical rich kid through a plate-glass window. He and his wife, Kate (Kelly Carlson), decide to get away from it all and go camping in the mountains of South Carolina. Their fun is interrupted when they stop at a gas station where some jewel thieves have made a pit stop. A couple of cops pull up, one of the thieves is unable to control his itchy trigger finger, and things go bad. The thieves, who are lead by a wise-cracking sicko named Rome (Robert Patrick), blow up the gas station, take Kate hostage, and speed off in Triton's shiny new SUV. But they make two mistakes: they don't make sure Triton is dead, and they leave him a set of wheels. Triton gives chase, tracking the crooks along the highways and waterways, doing what a man's gotta do in order to save the woman he loves.
Man, was I ever wrong about this one. I went in expecting it to hate it for being stupid and cheesy, but instead had a blast with it for those very same reasons. These days most action movies fall into two categories: mega-budget CG-fests or straight-to-video fodder, but The Marine, with its square-jawed hero, unabashed patriotism (or, if you prefer, jingoism), and rampant pyrotechnics, is a throwback to the modestly budgeted action flicks we used to get on a regular basis back in the late '80s and early '90s. Over the top and gloriously goofy, this thing is a hell of a lot of fun. It's not for everyone, but it's perfect for anyone of a certain mindset.
Rather than present a detailed discussion of this flick's merits, I'll just list and briefly comment on what I love about it:
• Trying to pass off Australia off as South Carolina. Sure doesn't look like any part of South Carolina I've ever seen. It's not quite as bad as having Georgia stand in for Vietnam, but it's nevertheless quite silly.
• Kelly Carlson in a white tank-top. Man, that's good stuff. And it must have been chilly when they were filming the final scene.
• The bit with the bus windshield. Damn, that was just cold.
• Endless shots of Triton running through the woods. Amazing how much tracking a man can do just by looking straight ahead and jogging.
• The big revelation about Rome's mysterious partner. Come on, if you can't figure out who it is the moment the guy first appears onscreen, you're just not trying.
• The completely gratuitous scene with the two guys in the backwoods meth lab. Bet they wish they'd minded their own business.
• Triton choke-slamming that dude through a stack of pallets. Sweet!
• The inevitable catfight between Kate and Angela (Abigail Bianca), Rome's smoking hot henchwoman/lover. I only wish it were longer.
• Rome crashing that truck into a building that conveniently contains a sledgehammer and chainsaw.
• The guy with the big knife being killed by his own partner. Why does he have to die? Because the writers couldn't think of any other way to get a knife into Triton's hands.
• The reason why Morgan (Anthony Ray Parker) hates rock candy. Enough said.
• Cena's rap over the closing credits. I was hoping for "Free Bird," but this is just as good, albeit for completely different reasons.
• The fact that not one, not two, but three buildings get blown to pieces. Even better, two of these buildings are located on the water, which means you'll get plenty of slow-motion shots of Cena diving into the water as flames fill the screen, as well as shots of him surfacing while burning debris litters the water around him.
• Enough continuity mistakes, plot holes, and lapses in logic to fill the Albert Hall. Why does a Russian helicopter come to pick up Triton and his men during the rescue mission? If Triton knocks the windshield out of that police car before peeling off, why does it reappear two shots later? Why do the other cars on the road in the subsequent chase keep disappearing and reappearing between shots? How do the thieves not see Triton when he falls out of the car as it goes over the cliff? And during the diamond heist, how does the windshield of that police car repair itself after Morgan hits it with a missile?
Told you it was fun. Twenty years ago this flick could have easily sat on video store shelves alongside such cornball classics as Martin Kove's Steele Justice and Fred Dryer's Death Before Dishonor, and I mean that in a good way. The action isn't staged with a master's hand, but debuting director John Bonito has just enough know-how to make it work. He also keeps things moving at a lightning pace, and had the smarts to keep the running time down to a scant ninety-two minutes. As for Cena, he's no Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, but thankfully he's also no Bill Goldberg. That being said, he can glower and clench his jaw like nobody's business, and he's earnest to a fault, which is just as it should be (were he not so deadly serious, the movie wouldn't be half as much fun). And let's not forget Patrick, who's hammy enough to end up on your table next Christmas. He's a hoot-and-a-half, and the only way he could have improved his performance would have been to adopt that garbled, goofy accent Dan Hedaya used in Commando.
Despite all press release and retailer info to the contrary, the Blu-ray version of The Marine contains the unrated version of the film. I haven't seen the theatrical version (it's not included here), so I can't comment on any differences between the two.
Bonito and cinematographer David Eggby opted for a hot, somewhat stylized look for The Marine, so you get plenty of bold, vivid colors in the 1.85:1 transfer. Some fleshtones can appear a bit too pink or ruddy, but it's nothing fatal. Depth and detail are quite good, and black levels are generally solid. Unfortunately, a few scenes in the first half hour are quite grainy and noisy; at times this adds to the nostalgic feeling, while at other times it's a tremendous eyesore. And why this clears up during the last two-thirds of the running time is beyond me.
The audio, available in one of those spiffy DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio tracks, is also a bit flawed. Dialogue is always crystal clear, and the entire soundstage is actively engaged during the action, but at times the track is weaker than it should be, especially in the low end. Oddly enough, this problem is also noticeable only in the movie's first half hour. The chase following the gas station scene isn't as loud or raucous as it should be. It's weird--the gunshots and crashes don't have much impact, but the bit where the hood of Cena's police car flies off and hits the road behind him is like a aural punch to the gut (as is the bit where the front bumper breaks lose and almost decapitates him). But as I mentioned, this anomaly eventually clears up, and the remainder of the movie sounds very good. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also available, as are English and Spanish subtitles.
Declassified: The Making of The Marine (11 minutes) is a by-the-numbers behind-the-scenes featurette. It opens with WWE honcho Vince McMahon (who served as Executive Producer) stating that his company's film unit strives to make character-driven action flicks, then goes downhill from there, with the participants expectedly talking about how much fun they had, how great the action is, and how much ass the movie kicks.
World Premiere at Camp Pendleton (3 minutes) offers footage from the movie's premiere at the southern California Marine base. Several WWE superstars act as enthusiastic shills, including Ric Flair (whoo!) and Triple H.
The four John Cena Features (15 minutes total) simply act as promo pieces for the movie's star. You get a brief overview of his wrestling career as well as some footage of him taking a boot camp crash course as he prepared for filming.
There's also a selection of ten WWE Promotional Featurettes (14 minutes total), which are nothing more than extended commercials for The Marine that originally aired during the roughly eight thousand WWE programs currently on the air. Much of this footage also appears in the making-of featurette.
Closing things out is the movie's theatrical trailer.
It is what it is, and there's nothing wrong with that. John Cena's fans, as well as fans of old school mayhem and action in general, should have a whale of a time.