Money, money, money, money, moneyyy.
Fans of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.) should recognize that line from Ted "The Million Dollar Man" DiBiase Sr.'s theme music (play me!), but it's also what the WWE is really all about -- raking in piles upon piles of cold hard cash. Beneath the glitz and glamour of their three televised brands ('Raw,' 'Smackdown,' and 'ECW'), pay-per-view specials, city tours, and various merchandising lurks the epitome of a perpetual gold mine.
The WWE entered the movie business in 2002 by forming WWE Studios, enabling them to produce feature films and generate even more fabulous moolah. Not particularly good films mind you, just big dumb popcorn flicks where brains are best checked at the door. Each of their movies is fashioned from the same basic ingredients: one WWE "superstar," one hastily written script, a couple heaping cups of action, a bit of corn, and some grated cheese -- all pureed in a blender until ready to serve.
'The Marine II' is their latest direct-to-video concoction that adheres firmly to this recipe. A sequel in name only, the generic action film comes full circle -- conveniently maintaining the $ theme I have going here by starring Ted's son, third generation WWE superstar Ted DiBiase Jr.
Everybody's got a price.
Shortly following a mission that abruptly ends in tragedy, U.S. Marine recon sniper Joe Linwood (DiBiase Jr.) is granted a few weeks leave from military duty. Joe plans on using every minute of his R&R to spend quality time on home soil with his beautiful wife Robin (Lara Cox). Robin, however, informs Joe she has to go on a business trip for the grand opening of a luxurious tropical resort in southeastern Asia, and decides to take hubby along with her. This wasn't exactly what Joe had in mind, but maybe a five-day holiday filled with sun, sand, and surf (thought I was going to say sex, didn't you?) wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.
Unfortunately, Joe couldn't have been more wrong. At the resort, Robin's snooty billionaire employer (Robert Coleby) really rubs Joe the wrong way for starters, and as if that wasn't bad enough, an army of guerrilla rebels led by the ruthless Damo (Temuera Morrison, best known as Jango Fett from 'Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones') storms the party and swiftly takes most of the patrons hostage. On the bright side, Joe happens to be one of the lucky few to evade capture, and with the aid of a former demolitions expert turned local scuba dive shop owner named Church (Michael Rooker), Joe has an unexpected new mission at hand -- stop the terrorists and rescue the love of his life.
Everybody's gonna pay.
I'm sure many of you are wondering which is the "better" film: 'The Marine' or 'The Marine II?' Well, that really is a tough question to answer since the styles for each film are so different. The original movie went for extra zestyness by tossing in the entire cheese production plant (a little known fact: when the film was originally released it caused a momentary orange out in Wisconsin). 'The Marine II' on the other hand tries to play things more seriously, though the story is typical run-of-the-mill action B-movie fare with all the predictable clichés, twists, and outcomes. John Cena also has a much stronger screen presence being a popular crowd-pleaser in the WWE, while Ted Dibiase Jr. looks more the part since his physique isn't anywhere near as clunky. So it all essentially comes down to personal preference -- but both left an unpleasant aftertaste.
On the topic of the acting, let's just say it ranges from good (veteran actors Michael Rooker and Temuera Morrison), to bad (almost everyone else in the movie), and downright ugly (the god-awful performance of Robert Coleby). That's right, not even DiBiase Jr. and his wide range of three facial expressions (happy, concerned, and pissed off) is the lowest man on the totem pole -- though he does rest somewhere near the bottom. Especially since there are a few instances where he seems to have mixed up his faces, but at least he wasn't sending my body into cringe convulsions like someone whose name starts with "R" and ends with "obert Coleby."
Yet, there are a few things that do sugarcoat 'The Marine II' to make it go down a little sweeter. The gorgeous tropical setting for instance does help take the edge off some of the more painful parts of the film. The action sequences also may not be able to compete with big budget blockbusters, and while this most certainly is no 'Universal Soldier: Regeneration' by any means, for a direct-to-video release it's still moderately fun to watch. One fight scene pits DiBiase against two Asian guys that is roughly 30% wrestling, 65% Muay Thai fighting, and 5% unintentional hilarity. Even better, according to the supplements DiBiase was supposed to kick one of their heads through a plank of plywood, except the only thing the owner of the head ended up breaking into was a bottle of Thai-lenol. Of course, with the exception of seeing DiBiase body checking and clotheslining a slew of armed gunmen and not taking any of their weapons (why does this keep happening in these types of movies??), overall I found the action to be pretty tolerable.
Normally, this is the paragraph where I wrap up this section, but I'm going to end it with a personal request to WWE Studios. When you decide to produce 'The Marine 3' (and we know it's inevitable if this one reeled in any profit), maybe could you think outside the box by raiding the WWE Divas locker room next time? I mean, if the third installment was to have Michelle McCool going G.I. Jane on an army of no-name thugs, I might actually consider heading out to a theater to see that kind of sexy carnage. And if you need someone to play the villain mastermind, I'm available -- and no, I wouldn't cost a lot.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox deploys 'The Marine II' on a dual-layered BD-50 Blu-ray Disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase. I found this one to be as slow as molasses upon booting, first taking a lengthy time just to bring up a message about Blu-ray playback and then another breather while the disc loads. It also doesn't help matters that there are five forced trailers before the menu: 'Jennifer's Body,' 'Family Guy Presents: Something Something Something Dark Side,' 'Gentlemen Broncos,' 'Behind Enemy Lines: Columbia,' and '12 Rounds (HD, 8:44). The U.S. version of the Blu-ray is reported to be region free and therefore should function properly in all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.
'The Marine II' comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (1.85:1) encoded transfer, and it looks pretty decent for a direct-to-video release.
The picture is generally sharp with sufficient depth, although there are occasional bouts of softness in certain scenes. The color palette is a bit uneven, sometimes bold and vibrant and other times dull and muted. The lush greenery of the tropics is especially attractive and is the real star of the show. Black levels are solid for the most part, except they lead to crushing and swallow up fine details in shadows. Contrast is jacked up, which can create overblown whites. As for skin tones, they appear natural, and facial detailing is nicely rendered as well, revealing pores and beads of sweat with clarity. The grain field is erratic, with heavier spikes occurring during most of the night sequences. I also noticed some haloing, aliasing, and periodic blurring on the image, but there doesn't seem to be any excessive DNR or edge sharpening that often turns viewers off.
While 'The Marine II' isn't visually spectacular and has its issues, it still isn't the ugliest transfer I've encountered for a newer release.
I'm beginning to suspect Fox realized they weren't going to knock our socks off with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for 'The Marine II,' so the sound engineers decided to hell with it, let's crank the bass so ridiculously high we'll just blast those suckers off their seats -- and hopefully no one will notice the difference.
'The Marine II' lays the smackdown WWE-style, so expect an excessive amount of chaos going on during a short prologue and when the terrorists make their debut. During all the mayhem the listening area is filled with the rat-tat-tat-tats of heavy gunfire, the thunderous booms from rumbling explosions, and every so often even a muffled high-pitched "WEEEEEEEE!!!" Well, that last one was because the insane bass frequencies kept triggering an electronic anti-bark dog collar I have tucked away in a drawer, but you get the idea.
On the downside, dynamics overall don't have a very wide spread, and some parts ended up sounding a bit canned and shrill. I also felt the dialogue was too soft, but not quite enough to make conversations unintelligible. Basically, the soundtrack for 'The Marine II' is decent for what it is, though the limitations of the budget are clearly on display here.
The disc also includes alternative Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French, Portuguese, and Spanish, as well as optional English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Thai subtitles.
The Blu-ray includes all of the same supplements found on the DVD release.
'The Marine II' is the WWE's latest attempt to bestow an employee with a tad more to do besides bouncing off turnbuckles and pile-driving their co-workers into oblivion. This Blu-ray has an okay video/audio package for a direct-to-video release, and there are a few supplements, but if you're looking for anything above mindless action and a megaton of shit getting blown up -- you won't find it here.