What happens when the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) empire decides to buy their way into the movie business? You get 'The Marine' -- a car accident of a movie that is so unintentionally hilarious that it joins the ranks of such classics as 'Battlefield Earth,' 'Speed 2,' 'Poseidon,' and anything made by Irwin Allen in the pantheon of the worst action movies ever made. Though there is no actual wrestling in the film, it is produced, directed and acted by an in-bred stable of WWE regulars, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. If one ever needed a reason to argue that television, sports and movies shouldn't mix, 'The Marine' would be it.
The story plays like an unholy mishmash of 'First Blood,' 'Invasion U.S.A.' and 'Commando.' WWE superstar John Cena (better known as the "Doctor of Thuganomics") stars as Marine John Triton, discharged from the military for disobeying a direct order while saving three of his fellow soldiers from being killed in Iraq. Struggling to deal with ordinary life as a security guard, he takes his beautiful wife Kate (Kelly Carlson) for a quick trip to South Carolina, where they get caught up with a group well-dressed thugs, led by the dastardly Rome (Robert Patrick). On the lam after a jewelry heist gone bad, an altercation at a gas station leads to a group of police being massacred. Kate is kidnapped, and Triton launches a one-man war to get her back. Using every manner of transportation, weapon and explosive device available in the jungles of South Carolina, our hero will decimate half of the state to rescue his beloved bride. You can take the soldier out of the war, but you can't take the war out of the soldier.
So who would make a movie like this -- in the year 2006!? I'd never heard of director John Bonito before, but a quick perusal of his IMDB credits reveal a long list of WWF/WWE television stints. No surprise there -- he directs 'The Marine' as if on steroids, with no feel for even the basics of cinematoc scene construction, camera placement, pacing or subtlety of performance. The film moves at only one speed -- overdrive -- with Bonito swiping every last cliche from the action-movie handbook. But what's so funny is that he plays all of this Michael Bay-lite stylistic excess absolutely straight, as if he's just discovered the coolest toys ever. The incessant slo-mo, the beyond-gratuitous violence, the fawning, hilariously homoerotic pans across Cena's constantly-naked torso -- it's almost like an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, only with machine guns.
The acting is atrocious. Cena does, I suppose, have a commanding screen presence, but that's only because his biceps are bigger than my head, and the camera always shoots him from below to make him look even more menacing. Just don't let him open his mouth, as the extent of his emoting ability is to always appear in the midst of trying to memorize his next line. The rest of the cast fares little better, with performances that make your average porn movie look good. Even the usually dependable Robert Patrick of 'T2' fame appears to be merely cashing a paycheck, seemingly always teetering on the edge of a smirk after having to say such ridiculous lines.
'The Marine' is still a hoot of a movie. What's so much fun is that it just gets more and more ludicrous -- to the point of David Lynch-ian surreality. I kept thinking it just couldn't get any funnier, but as Cena becomes nearly invincible by film's end, I realized that a lumbering, reactionary, pummeling action flick like this hasn't been seen since the heyday of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal -- the glory years when ordinary men could be indestructible, mowing down scores of bad guys, blood splattering against the walls, all to defend Truth, Justice and the American Way. I suppose it is a sad comment on society (or perhaps just me) that despite its callous absurdity, 'The Marine' isn't offensive, it's nostalgic. I both hated this movie, and loved it.
'The Marine' is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and 1080p/MPEG-2 video. Alas, it's not a very good transfer.
Suffering from intense over-processing, the image is noisy, contrast blooms all over the place and color saturation excessive. The source is in good shape, with no major artifacts, but grain only exacerbates the noise problem. The smeary primary colors, especially reds and blues, do little to help fleshtones, which are too orange and make even the most attractive actors look like extras in a ProActiv acne infomercial. Detail is perhaps as good as could be expected, but the high-key contrast and noise prevent any true depth. Oddly, the opening flashback Iraq action sequence looks the best, with far better colors, more even contrast and nice depth -- sadly, it inflated my expectations to a level that the rest of the transfer didn't live up to.
Well, at least it's loud. Fox dishes up another DTS HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 surround track -- the kind that makes things that blow up sound real good. The dialogue scenes are fast-forward material (go make some popcorn), but nevermind that -- 'The Marine' is about ear-piercing action bombastic, turned up to 11 (earplugs recommended).
Click to any of the numerous, chaotic bloodletting scenes, and watch the bullets ping-pong around you in every channel. The "wall of sound" effect in the surrounds is powerful, with every explosion accompanied by pummeling deep bass that really gives the subwoofer a workout. As noted above, any non-action scene is pretty straightforward -- dialogue is intelligible enough, even if the script is terrible, though it does have a slightly canned quality, like those cheapie late-night cable movies you seen on TNT. Also a bit grating are the generic hard rock tunes, which are usually overcranked in the mix, though they do nicely bleed to the rears.
Part EPK, part WWE-promo, part the mad ramblings of delusional filmmakers, the bonus featurettes on 'The Marine' are amost as funny as the film. Best of all, running only 15 minutes total, they don't even wear out their welcome.
The imaginatively titled "Behind the Scenes Featurette" is your typical extended commercial, with ridiculous interviews with star John Cena, director John Bonito, etc., who apparently believe they've made a kick-ass action movie. The "John Cena Featurette" is seriously two minutes of him playing golf. And the two "WWE Promotional Featurettes" are just that, plus some footage of the film's premiere at Camp Pendleton.
Rounding out such a massive assault of supplements is the film's Theatrical Trailer, plus a quartet of promos for other Fox Blu-ray titles.
'The Marine' is one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies I've seen in decades. If this doesn't become a new camp classic on the level of the later 'Rambo' flicks, 'Invasion U.S.A.' and every movie Dolph Lundgren every made, I'll eat my entire Blu-ray collection. Fox serves up a solid enough disc for such a horrendous movie, complete with a way overpumped transfer, bombastic soundtrack and some amusing extras. Fans of the movie should have no hesitation picking this one up. All others -- if you're so inclined, rent it with some friends, get drunk, and laugh your ass off. Or don't.