The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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--Matt

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Marine 2 (2009)

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I have been trying to get my hands on this since it was released back in December. All that time it's been relegated in my Netflix queue to the dreaded Long Wait. I'm not sure what the difference is between Long Wait and Very Long Wait, but based on what Long Wait is, I'm afraid to see it. Also, after finally seeing this, I can't imagine who would keep it for so long. I made sure it went out in mail as soon as it could.

The Marine 2 stars WWE wrestler Ted DiBiase (son of the Million Dollar Man) as a Marine on leave joining his wife as she hosts a party at a hotel in some Third World South Pacific Island nation. They're celebrating how good it is to be rich and white and stuff, when a group of armed natives that want their beaches back take over the party. After a mercenary team is unsuccessful in rescuing them, it's up to our doughy hero to save the day.

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If Rule #1 to action films is don't let the plot get in the way, and Rule #2 is don't get political with it, Rule #3 is definitely make your hero likable. The whole point of the action film is to root for the hero, and if we don't like him, all bets are off. Mr. DiBiase may be a big time wrestling star, but here it just looks like they took a frat guy five years after he graduated, pulled him from his cubicle as he was adjusting his fantasy football team, and stuck him in an action movie. I'm not saying in real life he's a doughy toolbag, I'm saying his character came off as a doughy toolbag here. If the WWE wants to set him up to be the next John Cena, they have a long ways to go, which is pretty bad if you ask me.

Part and parcel with Rule #3 is Rule #4: make your bad guys bad enough that we don't root for them instead. Evil corporations that want to steal land from poor, native, south of the Equator nations are always great baddies. We want our hero to side with the native population and throw these evil old white men out. Unfortunately, it doesn't work the other way around. Rooting for our hero to make the world safe for White Corporate Imperialism probably only works at Blackwater-- I'm sorry, Xe-- corporate functions. Throw in a really cool baddie, and you have a full fledged Destro Effect (which refers to the phenomenon associated with me growing up, watching GI Joe, and thinking COBRA was way cooler). By casting Temuera Morrison, the dude who played one of the two coolest characters in the new Star Wars, Jango Fett (the other was Mace Windu), it just made the whole thing complete. Okay, let me get this straight, I'm pulling for a doughy toolbag to protect White Corporate Imperialist interests against Jango Fett and his native guerrilla force fighting for the right of their own children to fish on their own beaches in peace? Are you kidding me?

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There was much more of this film that was saute├ęd in wrong sauce. In a couple of the shoot outs, instead of going with some nice upbeat music, they went the chant route. Ooh, really, you want to do that? Rule #5, don't take yourself too seriously, and you just did right there. The first half hour had almost no action after the opening scene. Rule #1 right there, you let the plot get in the way. About an hour into the movie they had one hand-to-hand fight scene, and it wasn't even that great, but you could tell from the change in music that they were totally patting themselves on the back for it. Same with the awkward long one-take scene where our doughy hero fights the freedom fighters invading his wife's party. It looked great in JCVD because there it was spoofing action films. Here it was clunky-- certainly not a time to pat oneself on the back. Last but certainly not least, there's a foot chase where the director tries the Kathryn Bigelow method of following behind with the camera, and all we got was blurry footage. Just because Point Break was goofy, doesn't mean Kathryn Bigelow isn't a great director, as her nomination for best director this year demonstrates, and you gotta have big chops if you want to imitate her, which this director didn't have. The Marine 2 was just an all around mess.

You can tell a lot about a movie based on how well or not well they use their character actors, and I've always distrusted a film that tries to use Michael Rooker as a good guy. It can be done-- he wasn't bad in Back to Back, where he was actually the lead hero there-- I'm just saying I don't trust it, and I was right not to in this one. He wasn't given anything to make his character, the quirky aging American ex-pat who helps our hero out, affable. What would've been better would have been for him play the bad guy, and Jango Fett be the local with the know-how. At least would've made the film less White Corporate Imperialist.

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All right, I've killed this one enough (maybe not, but I'm running out of room!), and the last thing I want to be labeled as is a Negative Norman, because in reality I'm a solutions oriented kind of cat. Here's how I would've fixed this film. To start with, the wife is not a rich person's party planner, she works for an NGO trying to make the native population's lives better. Our doughy hero visits her there on his leave, and we're introduced to Jango Fett as a local with a military past. The problem is the native's beach, where they live and all make their livelihoods, is under attack by the corporate big wig and his mercenaries, led by the always bad Michael Rooker. At first, our hero doesn't want any part of this dispute, but his wife implores him to help,and he does, along with Jango Fett. Maybe it's a little Seven Samurai, but it's better to be good and derivative, than bad and unwatchable.

Anyway, you know what I'm about to say, but I'll make it official anyway: don't waste your time. I noticed in my Behind Enemy Lines: Columbia review I said that wrestlers and action films were a perfect marriage, and the first thing the WWE did was make me eat my words, which is too bad. A lot of what worked in that movie was discarded in this one, and I have no idea why. Hopefully their next action film will discard everything about The Marine 2.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1266027/

10 comments:

  1. Wow, this movie sounds bad. It sounds like an anti-Avatar.

    You know how Avatar is all about leaving the natives to their business, they have a different way of life, let them be. Lets all live in peace in this universe.

    I cant believe that this movie actually takes the Imperialist side, the lets take over the whole world and make it like us side. Its a barf inducing idea, but sadly, thats the way is moving these days.

    You know, I live in Puerto Rico, an island that is going through something like this. We have many beautiful beaches all around (we're a freaking island) sadly, these beautiful beaches are being destroyed by having gigantic hotels and resorts built on them, just so that tourists can come and drink their margaritas in the caribbean.

    Im all for people going on vacation, but you should visit a country, to see their way of life, and how they do things. Not visit a country, to come to a place that has been transformed to look like YOUR country. The one you are tryign to get away from to see something different. Are you on vacation to see something different? Or what?

    Its sad, but this is happening in many countries around the world and its sad that this movie is rooting for that kind of mentality.

    Its not that I hate the U.S. or anything, quite the contrary, I loved living their (Ive lived in New York and North Carolina), what Im against is big corporations destroying natural habitats, beautiful beaches, and privatizing them (these means locals cant visit their own beaches!) to plant their gigantic hotels and resorts.

    But speaking of The Marine, I enjoyed the first one for the mindless action fest that it was. I loved how they were trying to immitate Commando's vibe. And I loved how over the top the action was.

    This sequel sounds like a waste off time, and like a bunch of douche bags made it.

    Great review Matt!

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  2. I should probably make clear that the film makers may not have done this on purpose (though they very well may have too, based on how it turned out), I think they wanted the bad guys to be like an al-Qaeda type, but when all you have to go on is a kid being kicked off the beach for fishing, they become freedom fighters, and it's the movie's job to make them back into terrorists, and they never did that.

    Coming from Maine I have some idea of what you're going through in Puerto Rico, because Maine's only industry is tourism, which creates a whole mess of problems for the local population. They resent the out of staters who can afford the rich hotels and beach front property. They're also naive to the state of their own state's economy, thinking we have other legitimate industries to fall back on, when that isn't the case. I can see Puerto Rico's mindset that it's time to cash in on the new passport and visa restrictions, but it's not always the best way to strengthen the local economy, because I can say with Maine as an example that it ends up killing the economy as a whole, and the people feel inferior after their home has been turned into someone else's Disney World.

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  3. I've not seen the movie, but even from the previews it looked obvious that they had the tone all wrong, re: the white imperialists vs. the freedom fighters. So I think you are likely dead on in that respect.

    Being a viewer of the WWE (I know, I know...) it still surprises me that they chose DiBiase to be the lead in this movie.

    -- From a non-wrestling fans standpoint, I think your comments on him being perceived as a doughy fratboy are dead-on.

    -- From a wrestling mark (aka someone who believes it all too much) standpoint, he's a "bad guy", so why would they want to see him in a movie as a good guy?

    -- From a person like me, who enjoys wrestling as throwaway entertainment, he's boring as hell, so why would I want to see him in a movie?

    Say what you want about Cena, but he doesn't have any of those things going against him.

    I'm curious as to who the WWE will go to next for a movie -- I still think a HHH as Conan film would be gloriously bad.

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  4. First off, I'm glad for your insight on this issue, because I've fallen out of touch with wrestling, and just assumed he was a good guy if he was starring in a movie made by WWE. I think pro wresting and action movies can be a great marriage, but picking a guy who was so obviously wrong, even for wrestling fans, can never work.

    And second, no need to defend your TV choices, I used to watch wrestling too, until Reality TV became my throwaway television. What's great about wrestling is that mix of soap opera and athletics.I don't begrudge anyone having fun watching that.

    And I'm about to go watch 12 Rounds later today. One thing about Cena that may irk people from my part of the US that wouldn't anywhere else is his Massachusetts Accent. When I hear it I just think of guys crushing beer cans against their domes yelling about Tha Sox.

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  5. Well, I'll comment more on Cena: ACTION STAR after your review of 12 ROUNDS.

    A curious thing right now is that the WWE is on a TV-PG kick -- toning down its content so that it's more kid appropriate (and I say it makes it stupider than ever -- which is saying something). Of course, there is a disconnect between that and making R-rated action movies with your wrestlers. I'm curious to see if they move toward some more broad comedy stuff with wacky hijinx that is more obviously aimed at kids as they go forward.

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  6. The WWE's next film is Brother's Keeper, which looks like a feel good sports movie about a nerdy high schooler who's taught by Cena how to wrestle. Definitely PG.

    I hadn't considered 12 Rounds for review, but it looks like a definite bust and perfect for inclusion in the Wild Card spot. I may have to put it off for a bit with my upcoming spotlight on bad comic book movies, but I'll be looking forward to your input when I do review it.

    I wonder if the recent success of the UFC has cut some of the older audience, causing them to shoot for younger kids. I also wonder if McMahon's political aspirations have anything to do with this shift to kid friendly fare too.

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  7. "I can say with Maine as an example that it ends up killing the economy as a whole, and the people feel inferior after their home has been turned into someone else's Disney World."

    This is exactly the way a lot of Puerto Ricans feel. Im not against Tourism, its a huge part of Puerto Ricos economy, but when I go to the tourist area (El Condado for example) I dont see a single Puerto Rican...and hell even the government here makes it hard for the locals to go visit these tourist areas.

    I was surprised when i saw this documentary on this theme called Life and Debt about how the tourism industry has taken over a whole area of Jamaica. Local Jamaicans have to have a special ID to go into the tourist area!

    Im afraid that something like this will happpen in my country, cause as it is right now, theres almost no Puerto Ricans in certain areas.

    Im not anti american or anything like that, but when a country totally bends over just to make money, it means they aint thinking about their people, just about making money. They dont care about environmental issues, just making more hotels, more resorts, more convention centers...its crazy.

    Its sad the way the world works sometimes.

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  8. I like the idea with the comic book movie reviews. Like wrestling, it's another area I'm happy to have knowledge of...interestingly, I see a tie in.

    The WWE's company line for the current turn to younger fans is that they are worried all the old guys like me (all of 32-years) will get tired of the product and go away and that they need to cultivate the next generation of fans. As much as it kind of annoys me and makes it less fun to watch (there is still niche stuff that entertains me) it's smart. Comic books have come across the same crossroads and look to be going down the road of catering to the 30-plus fanboy for all of their money and completely neglecting the younger readers.

    Anyways, enough of my rambling...I guess have my own blog if I need to discuss all of this :)

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  9. I don't think anyone thinks you're anti-American for wanting the integrity of your homeland to remain in tact. I think the problem is like you said, the term "development" is used as a front for converting whole areas into resorts only rich foreigners can enjoy. It's good to attract tourists to luxurious resorts, but there's something to be said about going and learning about a different culture and environment, and converting the island into a Bahamas or Cozumel that Americans don't need a passport to get to betrays that sentiment and sends the wrong message to both the home population and the tourists. In that vein, this movie definitely would definitely touch that nerve for you, because there is absolutely nothing about the local population other than that a hotel resort would be so good for them and their economy.

    As far as comics go, I too was an avid reader of them when I was younger, and found about six or seven years ago, when I was older and had cash, that I still loved them, only then I wasn't beholden to an allowance to buy them. Needless to say I spent a lot of money in a few (or more) binges and learned that I have a problem, and had to quit cold turkey. Even now when I see a comic book movie I get the urge, and I have to keep myself away from comic book shops.

    I guess the dilemma is, yes, the fanboys often have more disposable income to spend on comics, but like smoking, you only get new addicts if you start them young.

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  10. This is one of the funniest reviews I have read. Bravo. So on point.

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