You know you can’t take much of The Marine seriously when even the villains are joking around. Released in 2006, it was meant to kickstart John Cena’s acting career only a year and a half after he won his first WWE Championship. What it actually did was set it back almost a full decade.
Overwrought and ridiculous from the opening frame, Cena plays the title character, an overzealous American soldier who gets honourably discharged for not waiting for back-up before singlehandedly rescuing captured POWs and blowing away their captors, one-dimensional members of Al Qaeda, during a mission in Iraq, an absurd scene that is both pure US propaganda and riddled with action movie clichés. It’s thankfully the only anti-Arab scene.
Married to Nip/Tuck’s Kelly Carlson (here in a mostly thankless damsel-in-distress role), Cena’s the restless type, so he takes a crappy job as a security guard in a commercial building. That leads to a confrontation with a misogynistic rich asshole who gets thrown through a glass window for provoking the hot-headed veteran after he “slut” shames his ex-girlfriend in her place of business. Delightful.
Belatedly realizing he needs a vacation, Carlson convinces Cena to go away with her for a while. When they stop at a highway gas station/variety store, they encounter Robert Patrick and his diverse group of dimwitted thieves. Earlier in the film, they pull off a major diamond heist in the least ideal way possible. They don’t protect their identities, the chatty Patrick ends up killing an inside guy for saying his last name out loud, plus a few cops get murdered before they get away. In other words, they will be the subject of a police manhunt for the rest of the movie, something that could’ve been easily avoided. Unsurprisingly, one of those officers is on the take.
When a nosy cop approaches Patrick as he’s putting gas in the gang’s stolen getaway car, one of his cronies overreacts and starts pulling the trigger, setting off a chain of destruction that can’t be undone. The cop’s partner, sitting in a law enforcement vehicle, is also shot but is spared by his bulletproof vest. Cena takes a fire extinguisher bump inside the store while the clerk gets popped by Patrick’s girlfriend accomplice. Then Carlson gets kidnapped which might make sense if they’re hoping to collect a ransom. But since this crew is exceedingly stupid, they just bring her along for no reason whatsoever, guaranteeing Cena’s inevitable pursuit. Why he isn’t killed is puzzling. He’s their biggest threat.
In one of The Marine’s most awkward moments (and there are a few), Patrick literally makes a play for Carlson while they’re hiding out in the woods. His girlfriend is literally yards away when this happens. Carlson wonders what the fuck he’s doing. I’m wondering what the screenwriters were thinking. In another scene, Patrick’s trigger-happy, cop-killing crony relates a painful childhood memory about sexual abuse at the hands of his male camp counselor that ties in with his hatred of rock candy. It’s played for non-existent laughs but it’s so out of place, again, I question the wisdom of its inclusion by the screenwriters, especially when you consider the WWE’s long history of allegations of sexual abuse. (Vince McMahon Jr. served as one of the executive producers.)
When the film is failing to make you laugh, it blows shit up. As Patrick’s band of cronies speeds off, the gas station explodes into an inferno and somehow, Cena improbably survives. It will not be the only time this happens to him. In fact, it happens so much it will remind his many wrestling detractors of his SuperCena persona in the ring. Cena gets beaten so much in this film, it’s a wonder he can still recite dialogue.
While chasing the diamond thieves in a commandeered cop car with no windshield, Cena manages to avoid getting hit a single time despite being bombarded by machine gun fire at close range. How is this possible?
There’s a weird subplot where Cena gets captured by a couple of paranoid rednecks in the woods who wrongly mistake him for a cop. (Guess they thought they were in 12 Rounds.) We have no idea what they’re up to. Despite tying him up, the ex-marine manages to get out of this strange situation rather easily. His character must be a Van Damme fan.
Shortly thereafter, he gets back on track and finds the thieves & his wife who are hiding out in what looks like an abandoned cabin bar. (Patrick and company have to wait for the cops to disburse before moving in. They’re not the only dumb characters.) As a couple of baddies go outside one at a time, Cena takes each of them out. One even gets chokeslammed. Carlson manages to temporarily free herself from her less than secure rope restraints and kick a little ass before being recaptured. And yep, Cena manages to survive another explosion without suffering in the slightest. More ridiculousness awaits in the typically overblown finale.
Vince McMahon Jr. got lucky with The Rock who remains one of the biggest movie stars in the world. But he has long struggled to have other wrestlers on his roster achieve similar success. Cena would follow The Marine, his worst movie, with so-so efforts 12 Rounds and Legendary, and his second-worst offering, The Reunion. For a while it looked like he was the next Hulk Hogan, a massive wrestling star who couldn’t translate to movies. But thanks to a funny cameo in the otherwise dreadful Daddy’s Home and acclaimed supporting roles in Trainwreck and Sisters, things are looking up for him.
Whatever stops him from making another Marine movie.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 7, 2017