From the Tony Scott school of direction – where the camera barely stays still for a second – comes The Marine, a WWE Films production. John Cena stars as John Triton (I wonder how long it took them to think up that name?), a former Marine who was busted out of the army and must now acclimatise to normal life.
That might make for a decent drama piece, but it wouldn’t be a very interesting action film. Plus, with all due respect to John Cena, I can’t see him doing a serious drama film at any point. Then again, if Mr Schwarzenegger can do it, I guess anything is possible.
So, because this is an action flick, it doesn’t take very long for him to be on the trail of a group of diamond thieves who have kidnapped his wife.
Robert Patrick is the A-Lister bad guy, playing a diamond thief with a mean streak. And, it seems, a whimsical streak. When he’s not mercilessly killing people he’s cracking witty comments that raise at best a mild chuckle. His gang of villains fare little better, playing up against the established cliches but are ultimately nothing more than bad guys for Triton to kill.
You can tell that the budget took a hit, because after the first couple of action sequences the second half of the film takes place almost entirely in the swamp. Allow me a moment to contain my excitement… There we go.
And everything blows up. Police cars, gas stations, more cars. Warehouses. Bars. Trucks. Robert Patrick. Almost everything except the swamp explodes, and often for no other reason than it looks cool.
And when will that camera stay still? It swoops around everybody in a dizzying whirl, only taking time to stop long enough to get a glimpse of Kelly Carlson’s cleavage.
From a script level there are several issues, but they don’t spoil the fun that can be had throughout. If you think too much about the plot, especially in this sort of low grade action film, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. With that said, there are a couple of narrative threads thrown in there that are either not developed, not explained or just ended abruptly. What happened to the guy Cena threw through a window? Nobody knows. Or cares.
In terms of the direction there’s one genuinely good shot, where diamonds are showered in blood, but that’s it. Some flashy camera movement doesn’t stop The Marine from being a mostly dull affair. It’s a shame too, because the opening 15 minutes or so are almost acceptable, and the big explosions are impressive but almost seem to be placed to wake the audience up between the lulls in action.
Where it fails the most significantly is in making John Cena indestructible, as no matter who or what is thrown at him he comes out the other side virtually unscathed. In fact you could argue that the same thing happened in his pro wrestling career. Snark snark.