The Theory of Chaos

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Full review behind the jump

The Marine

: John Bonito
: Story by Michell Gallagher, Screenplay by Michell Gallagher and Alan McElroy
: Joel Simon
: John Cena, Robert Patrick, Kelly Carlson, Anthony Ray Parker, Abigail Bianca, Jerome Ehlers, Manu Bennett, Damon Gibson, Drew Powell

It was a strange epiphany, but I still remember it with perfect clarity. Moviegoing made the evolutionary leap from passive hobby to active, lifelong passion for me at 14, when I watched the crummy Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle
Death Warrant and got righteously angry over its unwillingness to provide the unashamed kicking action I had rented it for. Hey, we don’t always get to choose these moments for maximum posterity value, but for the first time I expressed a genuine pang; I asserted the right to excellence for my money, and engaged my attention to what reaction a movie provoked in me and why.

I don’t know if it’s the reason why to this day I have an unhealthy desire to watch B-grade butt-stomping action pictures like
The Marine, but it is the reason why even for them I have expectations. Expectations tempered to the genre, but expectations nonetheless. I want to see a simple storyline, some colorful bad guys, and a few lively scenes of bloody-knuckling, and I’d like all the participants involved to show the least bit of enthusiasm and imagination rather than acting like we should be grateful they deigned to show up. I’m looking in your direction, Mr. Seagal.

With the scorecard thus weighted, let me say that in
The Marine the storyline is certainly simple, almost too much so, that the bad guys are admittedly colorful, albeit ridiculous in usually the wrong way, and the action is indistinct and far below what one would expect from the project’s pedigree. This picture is part of a strategic campaign by Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment to groom more of their top-tier stunt-grapplers into screen stars in The Rock’s pec-tastic wake; it features John Cena, who looks sort of like what might happen if Mark Wahlberg was exposed to gamma radiation then got angry. Cena’s job is to fight well and fill out a T-shirt; the latter he does particularly well, he’s so muscled it looks like even his cheekbones have biceps.

As to the former point, I think he’s fighting well, but the camera is pushed in so close and the editing so cock-eyed that we don’t get too much of a read on it. The talent of pro wrestlers is to handle complex choreography and sell the impact of every haymaker. Why rob him of the opportunity to really let that talent shine? Unlike The Rock, who has a genuinely shining screen charisma that surprises me anew every time I see it, we are not here to see Cena emote; he tries to channel every life event through a clenched jaw. I can live with that if he has the opportunity to demonstrate what makes him a main event draw in his field, but rookie director John Bonito’s commercial roots, favoring pizzazz over clarity, lets him down.

Cena’s character has a manly name, John Triton, and a manly job, a Marine serving in Iraq. We meet him near what is labeled an “Al Qaeda training camp outside Tikrit”, where a gang of swarthy unshaven ne’er-do-wells are rolling tape on their planned execution of an American hostage. To picture this scene properly, add the marionette strings from Team America: World Police and you’ve got the right tone whether they intended it that way or not.

Triton saves the day but is busted out for defying orders – if you think about it, I’m surprised the Marine Corps cooperated with this picture, since not only did they provide Cena a hilariously ill-fitting dress uniform for the title sequence, but they are depicted as booting one of their finest on some tetchy technicality.

The bulky hero finds adjusting to civilian life hard, he wants a job right away because he doesn’t know what he’d do around the house all day without one. His wife (Kelly Carlson), wearing white lacy underthings, gives him a look that screams “Hello!”, but he’s curiously unable to get the message.

She talks him into a little road trip, which is where they have a chance encounter with high stakes burglar Rome (Robert Patrick). Rome has just stolen a feast of diamonds in psychotically sloppy fashion, when he coos to his moll (Abigail Bianca) “we got away clean”, he honestly seems to think that being witnessed in broad daylight riddling a police car with automatic weapons fire counts as getting away clean. Rome is an oddball in all kinds of ways, I actually appreciated the snaky relish with which Patrick attacks the part. He’s game for every kook gesture, even as he’s required to make a groaning joke acknowledgement of his most famous role.

Rome takes Triton’s pretty wife hostage, and Triton puts his one-man-vengeance-crew game face on. There’s a lot of trudging through swamps, a lot of eccentric interludes where Rome’s gang bicker and act out, and eventually a whole lot of explosions. You know you’ve had a pip of a day when you are in three separate buildings that explode, and dive in slow motion out of two of them, and drive into one in a burning semi truck. Triton’s ear drums are apparently as muscular as the rest of him.

I credit the movie for being willing to push certain elements to silly extremes, Triton’s wife is so uncooperative and snide a hostage it’s a wonder they don’t trade her in, and given how thick these crooks are I find it hard to believe they could ever pull off the simplest of jobs together. People are being punched or bludgeoned in the face near constantly but none of them show the slightest bruise or scuff. That’s like wrestling, at least.

It’s not enough for me recommend The Marine, even at the low success threshold I have for this genre. Vince McMahon of the WWE is quite a showman, he’s the only CEO in America who literally makes his employees kiss his hindquarters on live TV every week, but he’s probably not the only one who would enjoy it. I think he’s got the right idea trying to breed new B-picture stars – they don’t have to be too good and he’ll still achieve his goal. But better than this, please.


  • Hello all! I recently saw (or was subjected to..) a Film called "The Marine", and felt I could maybe weigh in as well! I stumbled across this Blog, actually while attempting to contact the Films Director John Bonito, as well as the Films screenwriter ALAN McELROY. Reason? I have worked in several Military Films and Documentaries myself (Pianist,Stalingrad,Private Ryan,Grey Zone,etc,etc) either as an Actor, or as Outfitter/Technical Advisor. I wanted to contact the two men involved in this Fiasco of a film, and offer my Professional services in the future, should they ever again attaempt a Film with a Military theme to it! If this stinker of a Film had the help and support of the USMC, then I am the the new Mayor of Baghdad!! To wit; after the initial (and terribly bizarre) "Combat" scene in "Iraq" ends, its shows our Hero at "Marine Corp Special Ops HQ in Stuttgart Germany". I live in Germany, and was an Army Officer for 15 Years here- there ain't no such animal folks! There are maybe, and I mean MAYBE 15 Marines in ALL of Germany. Most of them being Embassy guards. Then, the lead actor, Mr. Steroids Cena, is actually wearing an ARMY Camoflaged field cap! A real Marine would rather work over his Grandmother with his Kabar knife, than be seen wearing an Army "cover". These are but a few of my Military/Techinical complaints that I have with this Picture. If the Producers and Directors of this Nightmare of a Film are reading this, or an astute reader knows one of them, send them my contact info! If I was good enough for Spielberg in "Private Ryan", then maybe I can iron out the next Film that they may make with a Military theme.(Landser Entertainment Gruppe- Germany)

    By Blogger desertsnake1991, at 9:54 AM  

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