Friday, 9 January 2009

The Marine (2006)

This is a great film for aficionados of large men
leaping away from explosions in slow motion

The Marine is the second film made by WWE Films, this time starring some guy named John Cena. He is an uncomfortably large fellow with a high-and-tight haircut and very little personality. This is more of the kind of thing I was expecting when I think of WWE Films, a dumb PG-13 action film. Normally I hate PG-13 action films, they're like porn films with all the nudity and sex cut out, but I thought I'd give this one a chance. If it was half as stupid as See No Evil I thought it would be a GTatM (Good Time at the Movies).

The film opens with him in his dress uniform, saluting in front of an American flag, so straight away, you can be assured of this film's patriotism. This is further emphasised in the following scene, where Triton infiltrates an Al Qaida terrorist base just outside of Tikrit. His superiors warn him not to go in and rescue his fellow Marines ("Wait for backup!"), but he goes in regardless because he is a True American Hero. That's lucky for the three hostages, because the terrorists were just about to decapitate them on camera to cries of "Allahu Akbar". Uh, yeah, I'm not kidding. Over the next few minutes, Triton shoots and punches his way through the terrorists and rescues the hostages. It ends with the four of them in a slow motion charge into enemy forces, and it's here that the director's (first-timer John Bonito) obsession with fiery explosions becomes a little embarrassing.

After an act of heroism like that they'd probably throwing parades in his honour and fighting over the movie rights, but in the world of The Marine it means being discharged for "disobeying a direct order". This leaves Triton pretty glum, after all it means leaving a dangerous war zone and returning home to his beautiful wife. Luckily his fat, comic-relief buddy gets him a job as a security guard to pass the time. He has a little bit of trouble adjusting to civilian life, though. The first day on the job he punches out a yuppie asshole (who has two beefy bodyguards for some reason) and tosses him through a window.

There's the beginnings of a serious story here, about a Marine who has lost his only purpose in life and starts to break down, but don't get excited because this subplot it is immediately dropped. Instead it becomes a heist/chase movie, where a team of thieves rob a jewelery store in what must be the most inefficient robbery ever. In fact, one of them blows up a cop car with a bazooka in what may be the largest car explosion ever committed to film. The leader of this group is played by Robert Patrick (why yes, they do make a Terminator joke).

Triton gets drawn into their criminal rampage when they kidnap his wife (and steal his car, a huge SUV natch) while they're at a petrol station. She's probably the most pain-in-the-ass hostage in human history. In almost every scene she's screaming, struggling or attempting to escape. No hostage is worth this much trouble, but we need a MacGuffin for Triton to chase so unfortunately we're all stuck with her.

Then there's a pretty great car chase where Triton chases after the thieves in some weird souped-up cop car. His car gets impossibly riddled with bullets and as he crashes into various obstacles the car loses it's bumper, hood, and whole top section of the chassis. As he finally catches up to the bad guys he stupidly drives his car right off a cliff. Then the bad guys shoot at the flipping car while it's still in the air until it bursts into flames (Triton having jumped out of the car by this point). The car does not explode though, which was bitterly disappointing. If the whole film was as gloriously stupid as this or the opening scene it would be great, but unfortunately the rest of the film is filled with bad guys bickering and alleged comic relief.

You see, instead of sticking with the straight-faced stupidity of the opening sequence they decided to make this one of those "self-aware" action movies, where comic relief music kicks in every time the bad guys are on-screen and they've all got these weird tics and eccentricities. One of the bad guys is afraid of rock candy, which is assumed to be automatically hilarious. This fear stems from an incident of child abuse at summer camp, which is played for laughs.

After the car chase the film becomes a slow trudge as Triton uses his expert desert combat skills to track down his wife in backwater swamplands. The bad guys continue to bicker amongst themselves and kill more of each other than Triton does. There are a number of fist fights that might have been interesting if they weren't shot in herky-jerky closeup. When will people realise that the Bourne movies are the only ones that have got this technique right?

By the time it got the final scene it kind of reminded me of Hard Target only not as stupid/good. There's the swamps, the black-clad villain, the fiery showdown etc. I really like the tasteless exploitation of the opening scene, but after that it seems content to wink at the audience and acknowledge it's own stupidity. If it had included a moment of straight-faced snake-punching or given Triton a mullet I might have given it a pass.

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