The Marine (2006)

(In theaters, October 2006) For once, the trailers weren’t lying: If you thought that dumb action movies starring bodybuilders went out of vogue with the end of the eighties, take heart in this renaissance. The Marine is exactly the type of movie where stuff blows up real good, allowing the hero to escape with only nanoseconds to spare. The plot is as simplistic as it can be (robbers kidnap hero’s wife; chase ensues) and the action never attains a superior level of interest, but the film proves to be relatively enjoyable on its own terms. The car chase is particularly fun, and the dozens of explosions never get old. What helps is the film’s self-awareness: It’s stuffed with small inconsequential scenes that almost act as self-parody, from a car-shop discussion on the inappropriateness of minivans to the villain flirting with the heroine in the middle of a chase. Small nonsense touches such as an Iraqi “Al Quaeda compound” with tanks and the South Carolina Highway patrol force using a high-performance sports car as a cruiser (!) add to the fun. Two of the film’s best gags come from a mirror glance and a small musical cue, both meant as references to classic films. Robert Patrick chews scenery like he’s enjoying the raw taste of it, while John Cena doesn’t have to do much but look stoic. Still, what keeps The Marine from being considered a classic guilty pleasure is that despite the potential of its elements, it keeps holding back on its own insanity. Worse: it’s never entirely tonally consistent, goofing up by (for instance) making a bad guy somewhat sympathetic before killing him thirty seconds later. Oops. Action fans craving some old-school payback action will find a lot to like here, but I suspect that the film will have no cross-over appeal for anyone else.

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