The Marine is ostensibly a vehicle for a granite-faced, quivering mass of muscles named John Cena, but it'd be hard to imagine an action movie with less use for its nominal star. Once The Marine establishes its premise–grimly determined ex-Marine pursues the cheerfully psychotic bad guys who kidnapped his foxy wife–it cuts infrequently to the wrestler-turned-rapper-turned-thespian as if to remind audiences that he didn't perish in any of the film's many explosions. It's tempting to describe those explosions as gratuitous, but like all good B-movies, The Marine subscribes to the notion that there's no such thing as a gratuitous explosion.
The Marine begins with über-trooper Cena disobeying a namby-pamby superior who orders him to wait for backup; instead, Cena single-handedly obliterates half of al-Qaeda and rescues his comrades. He earns a one-way ticket out of the Marines for his heroism (those bastards!) and loses a rent-a-cop job after throwing a yuppie through a window. When reptilian bad guy Robert Patrick and his gaggle of heavies kidnap Cena's hot wife (Nip/Tuck vixen Kelly Carlson), the muscle-bound grappler snaps out of his professional and existential funk and springs into action.
While The Marine proves a poor showcase for the charisma-impaired Cena, it's a terrific vehicle for world-class heavy Patrick, who is clearly enjoying himself as the kind of deranged lunatic who interrupts a long string of felonies to confirm the details of his new cable package. (No matter how many people you kill, you're always going to need HBO.) And he gets some able assistance from race-obsessed henchman Anthony Ray Parker, who scores the film's wiggiest line: "I hate cops–and rock candy!" Picking up where Cannon Films' schlock factory left off, The Marine often feels like an oddball black comedy about a dysfunctional band of sociopaths, just masquerading as an action movie about one tough ex-Marine. John Bonito's directorial debut thankfully has a sense of humor about itself, even though Cena lacks the wry self-deprecation that allowed The Rock to escape the wrestling-actor ghetto. The conventions of the genre dictate that Cena emerge victorious, but the bad guys (or "heels," in the wrestling vernacular) walk away with this endearingly wacko film.