April 06, 2020

‘The Marine’ a decent source of cheap thrills

In theaters

THE MARINE, directed by John Bonito, written by Michell Gallagher and Alan McElroy, 95 minutes, rated PG-13.

John Bonito’s “The Marine” is almost exactly the sort of B-movie that used to be the standard for stock action cinema in the ’70s. The difference? It has bigger, better special effects – from the explosions straight down to the characters.

The story is filled with assembly-line nonsense, but few coming to it will give a hoorah that it offers nothing new. What will matter most to its target audience are whether the ammo, action and attitude are in good supply.

The short answer is yes.

The film, which Bonito based on a script by Michell Gallagher and Alan McElroy, comes from World Wrestling Entertainment, with Vince McMahon serving as the movie’s executive producer. That will either excite you or leave you wanting to spend a long time surrounded by art and books, as will the idea that the Marine in the title is played by John Cena, the WWE superstar known for his quick wit and, well, other attributes.

What the movie has going for it is that it understands what it is – cheap entertainment that takes itself just seriously enough to allow room to poke fun at itself. Since the movie makes an attempt to be somewhat timely, it opens in Iraq, with Cena’s John Triton eager to free several fellow Marines who are about to be executed by al-Qaida.

With panache, he pulls it off – the amount of firepower the man unleashes in this scene alone would put a smile on Kim Jong Il’s face – but there are consequences to Triton’s heroism. Since he refused to follow orders and wait for backup, he is discharged from service and is forced to become a restless civilian back home in South Carolina. There, he romantically reconnects with wife Kate (Kelly Carlson) before finding dissatisfying work as a security guard, from which he’s quickly fired for some rather inappropriate behavior.

With a vacation in order, John and Kate take off for the mountains, where they have the bad luck of meeting up with some vicious jewel thieves (Robert Patrick, Abigail Bianca and Anthony Ray Parker among them) who take Kate hostage. It’s up to John and John alone to use the skills he learned as a Marine to get her back.

On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss a movie like this, but in 2006, Hollywood has pumped out a lot worse than “The Marine.” The movie is a cartoon, but it’s reasonably entertaining, it accomplishes its low goals with a measure of menace and humor, and Cena and company work hard to infuse the film with its likeably cheap, movie-of-the-week feel. Hardly great, but also hardly awful.

Grade: C+


THE INTERPRETER, directed by Sydney Pollack, written by Charles Randolph, Scott Frank and Steven Zaillian, 123 minutes, rated PG-13.

The tense, satisfying thriller “The Interpreter,” now available in high definition on HD DVD, stars Nicole Kidman as Silvia Broome, an interpreter for the United Nations who overhears an alleged plot to kill Edmond Zuwanie (Earl Cameron), president of Matobo, the African nation in which Broome was born.

Since Matobo doesn’t exist in real life – and since the movie was directed by Sydney Pollack, whose films sometimes have a political bent that echo real life – you naturally look around to see what might have influenced it.

You don’t have to look far. Pollack makes it clear that Matobo is meant to be Zimbabwe and that Zuwanie is modeled after that country’s president, Robert Mugabe, who fought to win independence from Britain in 1980 and thus became, to many Africans, a great liberator. Twenty-six years later, Mugabe has become a tyrant, rigging polls, starving his people and using coercion to retain his grip on power.

In a way, Mugabe’s story is the backbone for “The Interpreter,” which uses similar events and characters to build its own story, with flashes of Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” helping to round out the corners. It follows Kidman’s Silvia in the difficult days that follow her hearing about the alleged assassination, which is set to take place at the United Nations when Zuwanie arrives later that week to deliver a speech to the General Assembly. (This is the first film ever to be shot inside the U.N.)

Though she tells the authorities the day after she hears, nobody believes her, particularly Sean Penn’s Tobin Keller, a Secret Service agent who recently lost his wife and whose gut says that Silvia is lying. Along with his partner, Woods (Catherine Keener, excellent), Keller starts to investigate Silvia, which allows Pollack his second nod to Hitchcock in scenes that recall “Rear Window” – Keller and company take up shop in the building across from Silvia. There, through large windows, they watch her every move with binoculars and, without giving too much away, eventually learn that Silvia has a secret past and ties to Matobo that go deeper than she led on.

Only occasionally does the script let the film down, particularly at the end, which is so forced, it’s a donkey stuck at the end of a cart.

Still, that’s a quibble. “The Interpreter” is complex and compelling, with Kidman and Penn, both strong here, enjoying the sort of smart, brisk dialogue that reinforces their already undeniable chemistry. The movie wedges itself into a turbulent corner of the world and finds there a story worth telling.

Grade: B+

Visit www.weekinrewind.com, the archive of Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s reviews, which appear Mondays in Discovering, Fridays in Happening, and Weekends in Television. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

The Video-DVD Corner

Renting a video or a DVD? BDN film critic Christopher Smith can help. Below are his grades of recent releases in video stores. Those in bold print are new to video stores this week.

Akeelah and the Bee – B+

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Two – A-

American Dreamz – D-

The A-Team: Season Five – C+

ATL – B-

Basic Instinct 2 – D+

The Benchwarmers – D

Big Momma’s House 2 – D

Breakfast on Pluto – B

The Break-Up – B

Broken Trail – B

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 – C-

Click – C-

The Constant Gardener – A-

Curious George – B

Date Movie – D-

Derailed – C+

Double Indemnity – A

Failure to Launch – C-

The Family Stone – D

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – B

Freedomland – C-

Friends with Money – B

Garfield: A Tail Of Two Kitties – C+

The Hills Have Eyes – D

A History of Violence – A

How Art Made the World – A

Howl’s Moving Castle – A-

Inside Man – B+

Junebug – A

Kinky Boots – B+

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – B+

Last Holiday – B

The Libertine -D

Lucky Number Slevin – B

Magnum P.I.: Complete Fifth Season – B-

The Matador – B+

Match Point – A

Monster House: DVD and Blu-Ray – B+

Munich – A-

Nacho Libre – C

Nanny McPhee – B-

North Country – C

The Omen – B-

Over the Hedge – B

Oz: Seasons 1-6 – B+

Paradise Now – A-

Poseidon – B

A Prairie Home Companion – C

Pride & Prejudice – A

The Producers – B+

Red Eye – B+

Rumor Has It… – C-

Saving Shiloh – B

Scary Movie 4 – D+

That ’70s Show: Season 5 – B

The Shaggy Dog – C-

Shakespeare Behind Bars – A-

16 Blocks – B

The Squid and the Whale – B+

Stay Alive – D-

Take the Lead – C-

Transamerica – B

United 93 – A

Walk the Line – A-

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – A

The Warrior – B

X-Men: The Last Stand – B-

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