Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Marine

Director: John Bonito
Starring: John Cena, Robert Patrick, Kelly Carlson

Running Time: 91 min.
Rating: PG-13

1/2* (out of ****)

As a lifelong wrestling fan, I usually make it a point not see or review movies starring wrestlers. I'm almost too familiar with them to be able to look at their movie work objectively. I always see them as their "wrestling character." Plus, I like to think we should leave acting to actors. The recent marginal success of The Rock has softened my stance on this issue because he is a charismatic, hard working guy with great screen presence who I think has potential as an actor. John Cena is not The Rock.

I want to see John Cena in a movie about as much as want to see Brad Pitt headline Wrestlemania. Come to think of it, after viewing The Marine, the Pitt scenario sounds better by the second. From start to finish this is a disaster and the blame can't totally be placed on Cena, but rather a talentless hack calling himself a director. Watch The Marine and take notes. This is how you make a bad movie. A really bad movie.

Cena plays recently discharged Marine John Triton, who stops at a gas station, where his hot wife Kate (Nip/Tuck's Kelly Carlson) is kidnapped by a notorious jewel thief (Robert Patrick) and his band of thugs. He has to go through the South Carolina wilderness to rescue her. Things blow up. People get shot. Cena gets to use some wrestling moves. That's it. Actually, no that's no it. What I left out is that in the first half hour of this 91 minute film that actually feels more like 5 hours, we get to know John Triton as a person. I thought this was the biggest joke of the film and I actually laughed out loud many, many times. We find out he loves his wife, is working a dead end security job with a doofy co-worker and his temper can sometimes get the best of him.

Why anyone would think it was a good idea for John Cena to attempt to display even the simplest character nuances right out of the gate when he has no professional acting experience is beyond me. We should have started the movie at the gas station instead of spending a half hour exposing Cena's shortcomings as an actor. He also doesn't look like a marine. Worse yet, he doesn't even look like a real person. He's too big. He looks like a bodybuilder and director John Bonito takes these wide angle shots of him just standing there looking as if he's about to tip over. It's actually pretty hilarious.

You never conciously realize how important a film's score can be until you've heard a really bad one. Don Davis' score for this film is a perfect example. It sounds like it was ripped from a video game or was mixed in someone's basement. It's cartoonish and silly, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't fit the action. The explosions look fake and the sad part of it is they were probably real but Bonito's idiotic direction makes them look staged and silly. He also manages to retrieve unnatural, wooden performances out of every one of his victims, I mean actors.

Cena unsurprisingly delivers his scripted lines as forced as he does every Monday night. Only Robert Patrick escapes unscathed as he brings a dry humor to the proceedings, but even he's just collecting a paycheck. I think the worst and most distracting aspect of this film is it's PG-13 rating, which was no doubt stamped on the film to insure Cena's core fanbase of little kids and married housewives weren't offended by the film. There's no sex or violence in a movie that's all about sex and violence. I found that weird and off putting. To be fair, there's also an unrated version available, but that's not the film I'm reviewing nor was it the film that was released in theaters.

This the second WWE Films release after the Kane starring horror vehicle See No Evil, which was awful, but doesn't even come close to approaching this atrocity. Vince McMahon, who produced this, has his finger on the pulse of the American moviegoing public about as much as he does the American wrestling audience(and if you've seen any WWE televison recently you know exactly what I mean). I've seen direct to video action releases directed with more style, and even intelligence, than this. It doesn't even work as pure camp.

Blaming this all on John Cena is unfair since it's ultimately up to Bonito (who's previous experience is limited to directing wrestling shows) to hide his weaknesses. He takes the lion's share of the blame since he knows what he's dealing with, or in this case, not dealing with. Instead Cena's shortcomings are front and center for us all to see, much like they are on WWE television. This is the part of the review where I say he shouldn't quit his day job, but that expression doesn't apply here. He should probably quit that too. It's fitting that the first (and hopefully last) starring vehicle for John Cena is rated PG-13, is completely by the numbers, and takes no risks.

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