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By Phil Hall | October 15, 2006

What’s a muscular guy like John Cena doing in a flabby movie like this? This connect-the-dots action-adventure may appeal to undemanding ten-year-old boys but will bore everyone else.

Cena plays an ex-Marine from South Carolina who was discharged for disobeying orders in Iraq (even though his actions resulted in the liberation of three Marines being held hostage by al-Qaeda operatives). Back home, he finds his USMC skills coming in handy when a squad of jewel thieves carjack his wife. The rest of the film is basically a chase through the South Carolina swamps (which looks more like Australia, where the film was actually shot). There’s plenty of shoot-‘em-ups, explosions, car chases and occasional name calling. Cheesy special effects and twirling stuntmen who look nothing like the stars they’re imitating provide sound and fury, even if it signifies nothing.

Cena displays none of the charisma or subversive humor that he brings to his WWE grappling. In this film, he is literally a blank slate – albeit a fairly large blank slate. When he’s not running around with a pensive look, he’s sitting with a pensive look. He may want to follow in The Rock’s footsteps as a movie presence, but in “The Marine” he’s actually taking the Steven Seagal approach to non-acting in non-action roles.

So why is this film gettng a two star review? Because in between the mayhem there is some fun to be found when Cena isn’t around. The real energy here comes from the lively supporting cast: Kelly Carlson offering some much needed sex appeal as Cena’s hot wife (she gets a “Tits ahoy!” shout-out for her bra shot), an uncommonly manic Robert Patrick as the leader of the jewel thieves (his dirty look at a reference to “The Terminator” is priceless), and Anthony Ray Parker as Patrick’s jive-talking sidekick (he seems to be doing a wildly irrelevant Def Comedy Jam routine whenever he gets the camera’s attention). Without them, “The Marine” would have been utterly intolerable. Maybe next time they should reconnect to make a movie without John Cena.

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