It’s time for another Mediocre Movie Review. This time we are crossing genres with The Marine, starring WWE wrestler John Cena. The Marine came out in 2006, made a little money in the theater and then a enough in the home video market to turn a profit. The running time is a pretty quick 90 minutes, which both helped and hurt as I’ll explain later. It starred Cena as a former Marine John Triton, who is trying to adjust to civilian life when he suddenly has to take down a band of diamond thieves after they kidnap his wife, played by Nip/Tuck’s Kelly Carlson, at a gas station. The main bad guy was played by Robert Patrick of Die Hard 2/Terminator 2 fame. Another notable casting was Manu Bennett, who would later go on to tear it up as Slade Wilson on Arrow. Standard action movie plot, nothing particularly outrageous. But since I’m reviewing it under the mediocre movie review label, that means it wasn’t very good. Just how not so good was it? Let’s see:
What worked for me
The acting. For a guy who never acted in a movie before this one, Cena did fine. Now that was mainly because they protected him by not giving him too many lines or having him give any long, dramatic scenes. For a low budget production that was clearly designed to make some quick, easy bucks off and not win any Oscars I give the filmmakers a ton of credit for being mindful enough to not expose whatever limitations their star had. The short running time saved us here from having to endure too much emoting from the film’s star. Patrick has played big time bad guys before so he was right at home and did well. The rest of the cast, save Anthony Ray Parker as one of the henchmen, did what they needed to do. The fight scenes were good, which you should expect from a guy who’s used to doing that very thing every night.
What didn’t work for me
Everything else. Action movies almost all have set pieces that are over the top, but they manage to pepper in some that at least look somewhat plausible. Not here. Everything from the obligatory movie opening heist to the kidnapping of the wife to the multiple showdowns between Cena and the bad guys, everything was cranked up to eleven on the ridiculousness scale. And not one ounce of cleverness to even anything out. Patrick’s gang of thieves had to be the most incompetent group of movie bad guys in any non comedy I’ve seen. Stealth was not their strong suit at all, and they had zero sense of the cunning and cleverness that make it believable that a group of thieves could possibly evade capture. That’s fine in a comedy but this a serious movie and it was beyond absurd. This is where the running time hurts; without any real quiet moments for character development or exposition, there’s nothing to offset the ridiculous nature of most of the film.
There were also some plot points that made little sense. The kidnapping scene is pretty ridiculous. The bad guys basically go nuts and start shooting police at the gas station and then snatch Triton’s wife after laying him out. Given the way the scene played out and that the bad guys were trying to make an inconspicuous getaway, it was just dumb. In another scene Triton is captured by some guys when he’s walking through the woods looking for the bad guys. A few minutes later he gets free, beats them down and escapes. The scene added absolutely nothing to the story and seems like it was put in just for the sake of having a ‘good guy beats up people’ scene in the movie. And while that’s going on Patrick has a moment where he’s flirting with Triton’s wife, as if she’s going to dump her husband to hook up with a guy who just kidnapped her, killed a bunch of people, and is already involved with a woman in his gang. And she rebuffs him in short order, so it ultimately looks like a ‘we need to make the bad guy seem creepy’ moment and nothing else.
And lastly there’s the issue of Anthony Ray Parker as Morgan, on of the henchmen. This character is absolutely terrible. He’s a walking ‘man, us black people don’t do that’ quote machine – black people don’t drive minivans and black people don’t go camping, just to name a few – and is completely annoying entire time he’s on screen. I was hoping he’d get taken down first just so I wouldn’t have to endure it much longer, but unfortunately he hung around way too long. He made the movie worse just by being there.
How to fix it:
I don’t think you could. Adding some more scenes with dialogue amongst the characters would normally help here but of course that runs the risk of exposing Cena’s acting if he had to talk too much, and would have likely meant more time for Morgan to drive you towards taking a baseball bat to your television.
Overall Grade: 5/10
Yeah, I didn’t like this too much, but despite all I just said above it’s perfectly watchable on HBO without any commercials. It came and went pretty quickly and Cena wasn’t terrible. If I was in the target audience when it came out in 2006 I would have probably been fine with it. If I’d paid to see this now, either in the movie theater or an On Demand rental, I would have been pretty mad at myself for not knowing better. If you get a chance to watch it for free go ahead but for crying out loud do not pay for this movie under any circumstances.