October 19, 2006

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The Marine (PG-13)
A WWE wrestler leaps to safety mere millimeters ahead of big pillowy clouds of orange and yellow explodey fire in The Marine, a movie that also features several car crashes, a good number of fistfights and a bit of hair-pulling.

So what, exactly, explodes in The Marine? Well, explosive things, such as canisters of fuel and gas tanks of cars and a police vehicle hit with some kind of shoulder-fired rocket. But a convenience store also explodes for some very shaky scientific reasons. A wood shack explodes (what, it can't just burn down?). I think a dirt driveway blows up at one point. I don't think any purses blew up, but I'm sure that was just an oversight.

John Triton (John Cena) likes him some explosions. As a Marine, he single-handedly freed a group of soldiers held captive by Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq, causing damn near everything around them to burst into fiery mushroom clouds in the process. And then he was honorably discharged, because in freeing them, he disregarded orders to wait for the less incendiary troops to show up.

All in a funk about leaving his military family, John returns home to his wife Kate (Kelly Carlson of Nip/Tuck fame) and briefly takes a job as a security guard (he's fired for throwing a troublemaker out of a plate-glass window will he always be misunderstood?). Kate suggests they go for a trip to clear their minds and, perhaps because trees are more flammable than sand, John chooses the mountains over the beach.

Unbeknownst to our boom-loving hero, dastardly villain Rome (Robert Patrick) has just robbed a jewelry store of millions of dollars worth of diamonds. Pure demonic evil (which we know because he wears slick, dark suits, kills one of his cohorts and has a brunette girlfriend), Rome sets off with the remainder of his gang to meet the guy who will fence his diamonds. But Rome's gang is stupid and trigger-happy and along the way a cop makes the mistake of talking to Rome. Not exactly a "wait-and-see" kind of guy (or for that matter, a think-before-you-leap or a listen-to-the-conversation-for-two-lousy-minutes-before-you-pull-out-your-gun kind of guy), one of Rome's posse shoots the cop and then (and I can't entirely remember how they accomplished this) blew up the entire gas station/convenience store structure plus several of the cars and the gas pump area at which all this shooting occurred. In the process of escaping, Rome decides, apropos of nothing, that he needs a hostage. Just so happens, Kate is sitting in an SUV right there and John has gone inside the explodey station for some snacks.

Rome takes off with Kate and the chase is on. After leaping out of the station ahead of the flames, John takes the patrol car and sets off on a chase of the SUV. The rest of the movie, actually, is just an extension of that chase, with John catching up and then falling behind and then catching up again and every 10 to 15 minutes something explodes. A few times Kate gets to kick some butt too, but mostly only the butt of the evil brunette something tells me the intended audience just isn't comfortable with the idea of watching a girly girl beat up a guy.

Actually, I probably don't give the intended audience enough credit. The movie, though serious about its explosions-per-quarter-hour ratio, doesn't take much else all that seriously. We get the requisite Terminator joke (poor Robert Patrick, he looks a bit ill at that line and a bit ill throughout), we get a couple of jokes at the expense of the bad guy and a couple of jokes at the expense of the movie. And, heck, WWE has its funny moments, so why shouldn't this?

The Marine looks more low-rent than I suspect that it is. It has the attitude of a dumb action flick with the kind of ham-fisted symbolism that would give a sociology student fodder for a dozen midterms and yet I suspect it's much smarter than that. In fact, I think this kaboominating movie is really all about math: explosion-loving movie goers * $7.50 admission price = a new vacation home for Vince McMahon. C+

Amy Diaz