The Marine (2006)

Posted on March 19, 2014

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Sergeant John Triton (John Cena) is on a mission to rescue some hostages from some swarthy bad guys. Supposedly, he’s in Iraq and they are al-Qaeda, but the movie doesn’t really flesh it out. What matters is that Triton goes ahead with the rescue rather than waiting for support because the bad guys are about to kill their hostages. Triton pulls it off, and then the Marine Corps discharges him.

Triton gets fired from his first civilian job. He has some adjustment issues. His wife (Kelly Carlson) talks him into taking a vacation to the beach. Their path crosses some diamond thieves, and the thieves steal Triton’s SUV with his wife still inside. Triton sets out on a rescue mission.

Short Version

It’s silly, but fun.

Long Version

I’ve recently spent a lot of time going over action movies. Last week, I talked about how Grabbers was a good movie but the action left me flat. I promised to talk about a movie with good action that still wasn’t very good, so here we go.

Save the Cat

The moment when Triton disobeys orders to rescue the hostages is, effectively, his “save the cat” moment, the action that’s supposed to make us like him. He gets fired for doing the heroic thing. The interesting thing about it is that the rescue is suspenseful. Obviously Triton is going to survive the scene. He’s in the rest of the movie!

Why It’s Good

We have no idea if he will save any of the hostage. We don’t know what effect his actions will have on his military career. We don’t know if he will wind up needing rescue.

No matter how those variables come out, the movie keeps going with Triton as the main character.

Why It’s Not

We know too much from the marketing of the movie, so we know that Triton gets discharged. We just don’t know the hostage rescue is why. Also, frankly, it’s too long. The rescue and the discharge are two scenes. We could have eliminated the scene where Triton gets discharged. If he got threatened over the radio, and then we saw him at his civilian job, bitching about it with his buddy, that would have been fine.

There are surprisingly few free-to-use images from this movie.

Filler

When Triton loses his civilian job by chucking a guy out the window, that’s just unnecessary. It does not advance the plot at all. It does not establish anything important about the movie.

In fact, when I see it, I remember a time when someone’s ex came into our workplace and beat his ex-wife in front of us. Our facilities guys subdued the ex-husband, and one of my buddies literally sat on him until the cops came. I’m not saying the character in the movie deserved to get thrown out a plate glass window. I’m saying the security should have called the cops, gotten reinforcements from elsewhere in the building, and given the asshole the full-court press.

Seeing Triton calmly use all the resources at his disposal would have said more than this scene does.

Meet the Bad Guys

We meet the gang of thieves led by Rome (Robert Patrick) when they rob a jeweler.

Why It’s Good

Mostly because we get to see that Rome is a smart, calculating bad guy. When the gang kills their inside man before making their getaway, we see just how ruthless and bad they are.

Why It’s Not

It’s too long. All it has to do is establish that they rob the jewelry store. We could literally skip to them running out of the store, with sirens in the distance and alarms going off in the store, and that would establish who they are and what they’ve done. There’s no suspense, because no one else in the store matters.

Granted, shooting a member of the gang makes them seem badass, but we could establish that later. Plus, since we have no idea how long the inside man has been with the gang, his murder loses impact. It should set up that no one can trust Rome, but it doesn’t.

Seriously, there’s just nothing. Who planned their marketing?

Going on Vacation

We do not need the scene in Triton’s house. Granted, it introduces Kate, his wife, but we could have done that in the car, on their way to the vacation. There’s a bit that pays off later, but again – could have been handled in dialogue, in the car.

Make the Bad Guy Badder

The Tritons and the thieves cross paths at a gas station. When some cops show up, the bad guys knock out Triton, kill the cops, and blow up the station.

Why It’s Good

Because it really establishes individual characters among the bad guys. It shows Rome thinking on his feet and riding herd on his unstable band of crazies. It reinforces that these people are ruthless and desperate.

Although we know the gas station explosion can’t possibly kill Triton. His pursuit of the thieves is, after all, the plot of the movie. That’s right – the plot only starts here. Everything before this was set-up. See why I want to shorten and cut the preceding scenes? What we don’t know, however, is what resources he escapes with. Will he be hurt? Will he have a car? Any weapons? What costs will he pay for surviving?

Why It’s Not

Aside from bringing the Tritons into contact with the main threat for the rest of the film, this scene is unnecessary.

First, the previous bad guy scene handled a lot of this ground. Of the two, I prefer this one. I think the robbery should have been much shorter and this scene should stay.

Except that, second, this scene shoots itself in the foot. No, Rome, a hostage does not always come in handy. In fact, most of the time, hostages are pains in the ass. They divert resources by requiring food, water, and guards. They make escape attempts at inconvenient times. If you were really ruthless, you would have yanked her out of the car and capped her right there.

The Rest of the Chase

The rest of the movie is all about pursuits, obstacles, and escapes. It’s actually pretty good. As with Triton’s escape from the explosion, each scene is about resources. Kate keeps trying to escape, Triton keeps pushing the bad guys to run faster, and there’s a mysterious third party working with Rome. Sure, we know Triton will survive each time. We just don’t know what it will cost him.

Kate’s escapes could be better. Granted, they wear down the bad guys, but so what? We know she won’t actually get free, so there’s no suspense. We learn more about Kate’s character, but nothing about how or why she is that way. The fact that she needs a man to rescue her is, of course, sexist.

The Climax

Who cares?

No, seriously: The movie is over. We know from the structure of the film that Triton is nigh-indestructible, and will survive. The only question is how. He’s already rescued Kate, so that element of suspense is gone. It’s just Triton and Rome, and we know Triton wins. Aside from some good visuals, it doesn’t matter.

Other Factors

I don’t watch pro-wrestling, but I like John Cena in the few things I’ve seen him in.

With a better script and better direction, he could be a terrific action star. He’s just not very good here. He’s such a big side of beef that he seems more like a demi-god than a mortal man with weaknesses and needs. The movie needed to hurt Triton more, or we needed an actor who could convey more of the character’s emotional journey.

The rest of the cast are very good. Kelly Carlson does a very good job as Kate. Robert Patrick could have phoned in his performance, but he seems to revel in the chance to chew the scenery.

Conclusion

Action movies are not about stunts, set pieces, and CGI. Even when your script allows for some doubts about the end result of each action scene, you need good actors.

The Marine is a good, dumb, action movie. As long as that’s all you want, give it a watch.

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Posted in: Movies