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October 13, 2006 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | October 13, 2006 |

There’s a sense of greatness that those ultra-violent ’80s cheese-fests aspired to that made them such delectable items of camp. Every time Schwarzenegger or Stallone fired an unending barrage of bullets, threw 12-inch knives into the bad guy, or soared through the air in slow-motion as a wave of conflagration singed their heels, it was done so with a hilarious kind of mock profundity that made their films a real blast to watch. But eventually the genre reached its zenith (with, I’d argue, Commando) and had to run the risk of becoming serious or losing its audience to the banal tropes it was tangled in. With a few exceptions, action films, at least relative to their goofy ’80s counterparts, have never been quite as enjoyable. I can’t rightly say this was a bad development, as those films were all trash. But man, they were fun trash.

With the advent of WWE Films, I was hoping that the genre might be again pushed to violently stupid heights, considering that those in the film company do exactly that for a living. This year’s See No Evil (also of WWE notoriety) had the right idea: Get a giant ogre of a man to bash people around. But See No Evil was a slasher. With The Marine, WWE tries its hand at action grandeur.

One need only see the trailer for this movie to know it’s going to be 37 kinds of stupid. The problem with The Marine is that it isn’t the right kind of stupid. The great trash of the ’80s was just so because it aimed for the sky while wallowing in the garbage. The Marine just wallows and occasionally winks at the audience from its depths, which is completely the wrong idea: The audience is well aware they’re watching idiocy; they need sheer unapologetic panache, not WWE’s clumsy attempts at humor.

Just look at the protagonist — John Cena. The guy is the size of a Buick. It might shock you to know that this fellow’s day job is to ponce around in tight shorts and throw similarly clad fat men into folding tables. But beyond the fact that the man has more muscles in his neck than most men have in their entire bodies, Cena has no presence, no ability, and no purpose on the screen that’s entertaining enough for us to forget we’re watching an awful, awful movie. And that’s the real snafu: The filmmakers themselves seem to be aware of what crap they’re making, but they don’t go for broke.

The film makes a plethora of in-jokes, making a reference to Terminator 2 so that villain Robert Patrick can glower at the camera. There’s also a particularly confounding scene wherein a henchman delivers a long and exceptionally pointless litany about his molestation at summer camp and some kind of aversion to Pop Rocks. Instead of the kind of stupid film that is wittily self-aware, The Marine comes off like a home-video of pranksters who enjoy dicking around with pyrotechnics. It hardly seemed possible, but any entertainment gained from watching Cena fly away from half a dozen different explosions will be purely incidental. The Marine isn’t fun; it’s just stupid.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.

Where Have All the Good Men Gone, and Where Are All the Gods?

The Marine / Phillip Stephens

Film | October 13, 2006 |

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