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`Marine' charges through all the action-film cliches

The testosterone-heavy vehicle for wrestler John Cena seems left over from the '80s, with plenty of explosions.

October 16, 2006|Mark Olsen | Special to The Times

"The Marine," the movie debut of wrestler John Cena, overflows with half-witted one-liners, women in tank tops, big guns, fistfights, explosions (lots of explosions), careening cars and even alligators. In other words, it's like an action movie from the 1980s somehow transported through a bizarre wormhole to the strange future of 2006. Satiric drive-in movie reviewer Joe Bob Briggs might have advised to check it out.

The opening sets the stage with footage that looks as if it were cut from a recruitment ad, as the Stars and Stripes reflect in the blade of a sword, and the sequence ends with the star in full dress blues snapping off a salute. From there, the film moves to a terrorist compound in Iraq, where soldier John Triton (Cena) disobeys orders -- "No time!" he snaps -- and single-handedly saves some hostages and dispatches a cadre of bad guys. Once home, after being discharged for his actions, he struggles to settle into civilian life.

Taking a road trip, Triton and his wife (Kelly Carlson) stop at a gas station where they inadvertently intersect with a group of loose-cannon jewel thieves led by Robert Patrick (yes, there's a "Terminator" reference). In no time the baddies have kidnapped the wife, taken Triton's truck and, for good measure, blown up the station. From there the presence-deprived Cena works variations of "They've got my wife!" and the action becomes a fairly standard chase-through-the-swamp adventure. With explosions.

Directed by John Bonito from a screenplay by Michell Gallagher and Alan McElroy, "The Marine" is the kind of reactionary Americana that is best seen not on cable or DVD but in some dingy second-run theater. It's not porn, but it's close, reverently following the basic tenets of action filmmaking: lots of slo-mo, hardware fetishism, whiplash editing with no sense of spatial placement, and that any set worth building is worth blowing up.

The filmmakers seem to be in on the joke, such as it is, giving the film a somewhat more rollicking flair than such a production might regularly require. It's not a good film by any practical standard, but "The Marine" is bad in just the right way, a mindless throwaway that's at least smart enough not to take itself too seriously.


"The Marine"

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, sensuality and language

A 20th Century Fox release. Director John Bonito. Screenplay Michell Gallagher, Alan McElroy. Producers Joel Simon, Kathryn Sommer Parry, Jonathan Winfrey. Director of photography David Eggby. Editor Dallas Puett. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

In general release.

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