Rambo version 2.0

By and

“The Marine”

20th Century Fox

Directed by John Bonito

Written by Michelle Gallagher and Alan B. McElroy

Starring: John Cena, Robert Patrick, Kelly Carlson, Anthony Ray Parker, Abigail Bianca, Manu Bennet, Drew Powell and Jerome Ehlers

Rated PG-13/93 minutes

Opened Oct. 13, 2006

Two out of four stars

In all its gung-ho cheesiness and bicep-bulging badness, “The Marine” recalls a Reagan era of Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger action flicks in which no building was left un-blown-to-smithereens and no bad guy got away without a giant knife flung into his back.

For the first 30 minutes or so, “The Marine” is fun as a throwback to those days of indestructible supermen. The bad guys unload a thousand bullets at our hero and never hit him, while our hero leaps out from hiding, squeezes the trigger three times and somehow kills everyone in the room.

This sort of testosterone-fueled fantasy is popular with 12-year-old boys who fancy themselves indestructible. Years of college education and reality-checking life experiences have worked hard to quash these fantasies from my mind, but a flickering appeal remains. Once the novelty wears off, however, it becomes clear that “The Marine” is just another thick-necked and thick-headed foray of witless machismo.

Pro wrestler John Cena makes his acting debut (unless you count his day job) as John Triton, a name that serves two useful purposes-it evokes the beefcake sea king, who would surely be rough with any scuba-diving terrorists that might swim into his kingdom, and it’s the same first name as the wrestler-turned-actor, who probably wouldn’t have responded to any other name than his own on the set. If you think that’s unfair of me to say, well, let’s hit you on the head with a hundred metal folding chairs in the wrestling ring and see how well your mental faculties hold up.

We meet Triton in Iraq as he disobeys a direct order to wait for reinforcements and charges into an al-Qaida prison camp solo. He bursts through a wall, Kool-Aid Man-style (“Oh YEAH!”), and blows away terrorist scum. Never mind he saved a few POWs-Triton is discharged and sent home to his sexy wife (Kelly Carlson), who takes a breather from their intense lovemaking to admit how frustrating it was to be a strong, but worried, wife while he played Rambo overseas.

Triton tries to insinuate himself back into the real world, which is sort of like dressing up Sasquatch in a suit and hoping no one notices. He’s fired from his job as security guard after he hurls a jerk through a window. His very understanding wife suggests they take a road trip to get away from it all, but on their journey they only manage to cross paths with a sneering group of bank robbers led by Rome (Robert Patrick), who makes the stupid mistake of snatching Triton’s wife. Hell hath no fury like a sea king scorned.

Triton pursues Rome and his gang in a commandeered police car, which leads to the scene in which Rome’s gang shoots about a thousand bullets at Triton’s rapidly deteriorating vehicle. Triton, of course, remains unscathed.

“Shoot him!” Rome shouts.

“What do you think we’re doing?”


That car chase leads to swamps and forests and marinas where Triton is blown up, shot at, drowned and, in all cases, wrongly assumed dead. The bad guys have arguments with one another. Triton’s wife kicks and struggles. Someone we thought was a good guy turns out to be a bad guy.

Even at 93 minutes, this material feels stretched. Cena turns in an OK performance, but he’d be better suited as one of those physically impressive goons who duels with a more charismatic hero. Patrick has fun in the villain role-and give him points for stomaching a lame “Terminator” joke (he was the unstoppable T-1000 in “T2”).

What “The Marine” boils down to is a thinly disguised recruitment film. After Triton dives out of an exploding house and Rome runs out in a panic, one of his henchmen asks, “What happened?”

“A Marine showed up, that’s what!”

Sign me up.

“Tangle not with me, for I am blessed by the fairy god. Look closely at my dust.” John Cena shimmers in “The Marine.”