I’m so happy I could cry. You all know there’s nothing quite as fun to me as ’80s Hollywood action flicks and, while I love The Matrix, I often wish the genre wouldn’t have seemingly gone all cyberpunk on us. There have been some sporadic attempts at bringing it back to the basics, while not stooping down to the cheap straight-to-video crap Seagal and Van Damme are stuck doing, but I almost lost hope that I’d get to see a new balls-to-the-wall action movie anytime soon. But–
“The MARINE showed up, that’s what!”
This film is straight-up action, with a simple but effective plot: John Triton (WWE wrestler John Cena) is on a road trip with his wife Kate (Kelly Carlson), she gets kidnapped by bad guys, Triton tracks them down, kills them all and gets his wife back, The End. This is almost exactly the storyline of Jonathan Mostow’s awesome “Breakdown”, except that whereas that was more of a serious thriller, this a ridiculously over the top romp, Schwarzenegger-style. Heck, it’s a goddamn Jack Slater movie!
“The guy who called in, John Triton? HE’S AN EX-MARINE!”
And don’t you forget it! The film actually opens in Iraq, with Triton machine-gunning through Arab terrorists to save American hostages before they’re executed, even though he’s supoposed to wait for back-up. Fuck the rules of engagement, Triton gets things done; he’s a decider, like George W. Bush! This is like the non-satirical version of Team America, jingoistic bullshit that’s rewriting History while it’s still happening. At least they waited ten years after the war to send Rambo back to Nam!
“How do we get around them?”
“We don’t – we go THROUGH them.”
Because he disobeyed direct orders, Triton is discharged from the Marine Corps. Once he’s back home, he gets a job as a rent-a-cop, but he’s fired on his first day after he throws some asshole through a plate window! This creates a little media scandal: “Security guards are supposed to protect us, but who’s protecting us from them?” Ha! Who’s watching the Watchmen, right? John realizes that his special skills (“Covert operations, close-quarters hand to hand combat, demolition”) aren’t that useful in the real world… until his wife gets snatched by criminals.
“Highway Patrol, this is John Triton. You have an officer down, multiple assaillants, they have a hostage… IT’S MY WIFE.”
Once Kate is gone, Triton becomes an unstoppable killing machine, tirelessly chasing his wife’s kidnappers behind the wheel of a car, running through swamps and woods and jumping away from countless explosions. Seriously, my modest estimate is that 75% of the film’s budget went into blowing shit up! This is a Supersize movie: Supersize Guns, Supersize Knives, Supersize Muscles, Supersize Boobs (hello, Kelly Carlson!) and Supersize Explosions! By any self-respecting critical standards, this is all rotten… But as a 2006 flick that damn well feels like it was made in 1986, this kicks all kinds of ass in all its cheesy glory!
“Will somebody please shoot this guy???”
“What does it look like we’re doing?”
Any great action flick needs great villains, and “The Marine” delivers in spades, starting with Robert Patrick‘s Rome, a kind of even nuttier Mr. Blonde. In fact, the whole criminal gang has a Reservoir Dogs thing going on. They’re utterly out of control, fighting amongst themselves after a sloppy diamond heist that turned into a bloodbath. And then they made their biggest mistake, taking Kate as a hostage, which got her badass ex-marine hubby on their ass!
“I tried to kill this guy twice today… HE JUST WON’T DIE!”
I love love love “The Marine”. Watching it, I felt like a stupid kid again. John Triton is an instantly iconic action hero, earning his place alongside the great Johns of the ’80s: John Rambo, John McClane and John Matrix. Speaking of “Commando”, the parallels are numerous, from the Bill Duke-like big black bad guy to the one called Bennett (!). We don’t get a knife fight during the final showdown, though, but Triton and Rome do go at it with, get this, a wrench and a chainsaw! Either that’s cool to you or it’s not; you know who you are.