1½ stars (out of four)
Here's a partial list of things that explode in ``The Marine'':
- A military truck.
- A cop car (thanks to a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher).
- A gas station.
- A convenience store.
- A South Carolina highway patrol vehicle (while corkscrewing in slow motion into a swamp).
- A ramshackle bait shop.
- A big, wooden storage shed containing nothing but big, metal gas tanks.
In between, there's an ear-shattering amount of automatic gunfire; it's a miracle that anyone is alive by the end of the movie. And two extraordinarily hot women eye each other with lusty hatred - when they're not smacking the lipstick off one other.
Oh, and there's an awkward joke in which a character admits he was sodomized by a camp counselor one summer when he was a teenager.
Welcome to the world of World Wrestling Entertainment Films, which exist solely to showcase Vince McMahon's stars and please the fans who love them. (Their first offering, this summer's horror movie ``See No Evil,'' featured 7-footer Kane gouging people's eyes out. Like ``The Marine,'' it also wasn't screened for critics before opening day.)
The star of ``The Marine'' is the beefy John Cena, making his movie debut. Apparently he's some WWE superstar; for the uninitiated, he looks kinda like Matt Damon, if Matt Damon got freakishly buff.
The premise of the film, directed by John Bonito and written by Michell Gallagher and Alan B. McElroy, goes something like this:
Cena's character, John Triton, has been discharged from the Marines for disobeying direct orders while fighting in Iraq. Once he gets home, he and beautiful, blond wife Kate (Kelly Carlson from ``Nip/Tuck'') go on a road trip to reconnect.
But when they stop for gas, Kate gets kidnapped by a group of jewel thieves (led by Robert Patrick) who steal their car. Patrick's character, the sharply dressed Rome, gets a couple of laughs simply because he's a sociopath with a sense of humor. Anthony Ray Parker, Manu Bennett and Abigail Bianca play his abusive, bantering band of thugs.
John's reconnaissance/search-and-rescue/weapons/hand-to-hand combat training kick in, and he proves himself impossibly indestructible in his pursuit of his wife. Bullets, cars, entire buildings - nothing can stop this guy.
So actually, at its core, ``The Marine'' is a love story. It's just hard to hear the heart beating though all the blasts.
``The Marine,'' a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, sensuality and language. Running time: 93 minutes.