WWE star John Cena's first movie mission is a bomb

The Marine

on October 13, 2006 by Jay Antani
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What were the story sessions for the new thriller The Marine, a vehicle for WWE smackdown king John Cena, actually like? Did the screenwriters (there were two!) sit around, stroking their chins, and wonder, "How do I top that gratuitous Act I explosion at the gas station? Hmm…I got it! How about we make the next explosion…even bigger ? Awesome! Let's grab lunch."

Writers Michell Galagher and Alan McElroy and director John Bonito reach for topicality by choosing as their hero Sgt. John Triton (Cena), a just-discharged Marine back from Iraq. The current war serves no other thematic purpose but to tell us what a brave and principled soldier Triton is, before the story shunts us from Iraq's frontlines to the Carolinas, back to the domestic bliss the veteran shares with his bombshell wife Kate (Kelly Carlson).

Eager for a getaway, the two head off on a road trip. Bad timing, though, because the couple soon crosses paths with a gang of gun-crazy jewel thieves on the lam following their last heist. A recklessly bloody confrontation with local police -- see gas station reference above -- prompts their leader, Rome (the steely-eyed Robert Patrick), to take Kate hostage. This leaves Triton to hunt down his wife's kidnappers as they blaze a trail of corpses and firebombed property across the Carolina swamplands. It's as fast and loud as you'd expect, but where it catches you off-guard is in its breathtaking stupidity. Not "campy" stupid, though there's a smattering of campy laughs here, but a sub-literate sort of monkey-stupid, one that takes for granted that its viewers either will be too drunk or too indiscriminating to care about things like, oh, remotely interesting characters or mildly inventive plot construction. So it doesn't bother. As a result, he Marine 's blood-and-bullets cartoonishness wears thin really fast.

Cena has two facial expressions, bored and less bored. But this isn't about Cena; he's a succinct and disarming enough onscreen presence. As for Patrick, a decent actor, he plays a villain whose fearsomeness is hamstrung by a script that can't decide whether he's ha-ha evil or scary evil. What he is not, along with the rest of his cohorts, is smart: Judging from his and his gang's loud, tactless buffoonery, it's impossible to take the whole lot seriously. Yet The Marine devotes most of its 90-minute running time to following their low-grade, gunfire-riddled repartee, rather than in putting together the pieces of even a nominally watchable cat-and-mouse picture. Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Cast: John Cena, Robert Patrick, Kelly Carlson, Anthony Ray Parker, Abigail Bianca, Jerome Ehlers, Manu Bennett, Damon Gibson, Drew Powell
Director: John Bonito
Screenwriters: Michell and Alan McElroy
Producers: Kathryn Sommer Parry and Jonathan Winfrey
Genre: Action thriller
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, sensuality and language
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: October 13

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