After getting discharged from the military for disobeying direct orders on the battlefield, ex-Marine John Triton finds it difficult to adjust to life back home. His first “normal” job as a security guard lasts all of one day before he’s fired. To ease the transition, his wife, Kate, suggests they get away and head for the mountains.
Their vacation plans are cut short when, while stopped at a gas station, Kate gets kidnapped by a group of diamond snatchers on the run. Keeping her as an “insurance policy,” the thieves manage to evade the police at every turn—but not the pursuing John. With his elite training, the one-man wrecking crew tracks their every move through the back roads of South Carolina. And it doesn’t take long before they realize that nothing will stop this guy.
John’s first attempt at working a regular job ends with him getting a friend fired. Still, his pal is quick to forgive him and even advises John to adopt a more optimistic outlook. “Your life’s not over,” he says, “Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and see what you have.” While not condoning the behavior that gets John kicked out of the military, a colonel thanks him for his service and encourages him to “walk away with dignity.” Kate says she just wants her husband to be happy. John, in turn, repeatedly risks his life to secure her safety.
Upon returning home, John shares a passionate kiss with Kate, which leads to an implied bedroom encounter. We later see Kate in her underwear, and most of her outfits reveal lots of cleavage. John’s bare, bulging abs also get screen time. And Kate comments on his behind. The camera goes in for a close-up of a buxom woman in a bikini, and we see part of her backside.
After they share a kiss, a female criminal unzips her dress in front of heist mastermind, Rome. Though there’s no explicit nudity, the camera angle makes it obvious that she’s not wearing much, if anything at all. Later, she again comes on to Rome, kissing and straddling him while he’s driving.
Various characters make a few mild gay jokes. One thug in particular tells a story involving a camp counselor nicknamed “Johnny Whiplash” who, according to the muscleman, “offered me something I never should’ve accepted.” A man calls his ex-girlfriend a “whore” and her workplace a “whorehouse.”
Within the first 20 seconds, this filled-to-the-brim action flick pegs the testosterone meter—and holds it in the red until the very last moment. By the time the credits roll, it seems every onscreen face has been whacked, punched or slapped by a variety of objects including metal poles, fire extinguishers, wooden sticks and plain ol’ fists. There are head-butts, body slams and kicks to the groin. Bodies smash into crates, tables, glass walls and anything else that looks “cool” when it breaks. Houses, boats, trucks, cars and gas stations all explode in the most spectacular fashion possible. In fact, a climactic scene gets downright laughable when a Mack truck drives through gas tank after gas tank—each bursting into bigger flames than the previous—then smashes through a storehouse window before plowing into a lake.
The Marine displays glimpses of tact as the demises of some people are implied rather than shown. A few times we hear gunshots or the sound of a knife cutting instead of seeing the bloody results. Other times, however, we’re not so lucky. The camera makes sure we’re watching when someone is used as a human shield and gets riddled with bullets. Or when a man emerges from flames looking like Freddy Krueger and then gets strangled with a chain. Or when a woman is tossed in front of a moving bus and smashes through its front window.
To supposedly up his “ruthless quotient,” Rome shoots a few of his own men in cold blood. He later attacks John with a mallet (we see John struck in the stomach) and a chain saw. Another person almost drowns. During a wild car chase, John’s vehicle is splashed with bullets, has its top ripped off by a construction digger, and then it flies off the edge of a cliff—while exploding, of course. Later, the ex-Marine smashes through several wooden structures while hanging on to the outside of a truck.
A handcuffed Kate gets punched several times. John also gets clocked, repeatedly and while tied up. It’s implied that alligators feast on the flesh of a man shot by Rome. Several characters are held at gunpoint or knifepoint.
God’s name is misused a half-dozen times, twice in combination with “d–n.” A crook shouts the f-word once, and other characters use the s-word three times. Almost 30 other milder profanities are spoken (including several uses of “a–“).
John and a co-worker share a couple of beers, as do the thieves.
Despite being praised for his service in the military, John has a serious issue with following orders or even taking advice. And the film seems to excuse this in the name of justice. He is trying to save his wife, after all. Among other things, the ex-Marine ignores a detective’s warnings and disobeys a police officer’s commands. (He goes so far as to throw the cop to the ground and handcuff him.)
Given its nonstop action and “blow up everything in sight” violence, it’s no surprise that The Marine was made by WWE Films—the movie branch of the famed professional wrestling enterprise. Thus, it’s no secret who the producers are targeting. With reigning WWE champion and rap artist John Cena in the lead role, those behind the camera are counting on the monetary approval of millions of teen and tween boys pining to see their favorite wrestling star. Which is exactly why it’s a shame that The Marine goes to such extremes to offer nothing more than yet another form of implausible blast-o-tainment.
The paint-by-numbers characters, the Rambo-reminiscent story line and the sheer impossibility of virtually every action scene may be brushed aside as par for the course. Same goes for the lame attempts at comedy spliced between all those punches, shots and explosions. (Robert Patrick, playing his usual thin-lipped bad guy, actually interrupts a multimillion-dollar negotiation on his cell phone to hear out a cable TV provider’s pitch.) But the celebration of foul language, illicit sex and violence? Not excusable. To quote one of the movie’s mindless toughs after he uses an inordinate amount of firepower to blow up a police car, “What … too much?” Yes, guys … too much.