Fox // 2009 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // January 5th, 2010
"They've got a hostage! It's my WIFE!"
Sharing nothing but its theatrical older brother's title, The Marine 2 bypasses theatres to stomp into your home and kick your ass directly.
It seems that somewhere in Asia, an American Gajillionaire has decided to open up the ultimate holiday getaway. For only a couple of grand a night, you get swimming pools, five-star service, great meals, wonderful swanky parties, a lush tropical paradise, and hostage-taking Asian freedom fighters with an axe to grind and a government to depose. When the Muay Thai machine-gunners snag the wife of an off-duty US Marine, the human waste is bound to hit the rotating ceiling apparatus.
I do seem to recall some hubbub about The Marine, when the John Cena-led actioner hit home video a few years back. The Verdict's own esteemed Judge Dan Mancini certainly had some goofy fun with it, and several of my peers heralded it as the second coming of Commando. Not too much has changed in the interim, despite the fact that this sequel bares naught but a passing resemblance to the original. We have a kidnapped spouse, a WWE superstar tossing his hat into the action-hero ring, and a titular bad-ass in Ted DiBiase Jr. (son of WWE Legend, The Million Dollar Man) who proceeds to single handedly dismember an army of Thai freedom fighters. Does The Marine 2 improve on the first flick? Well, yes and no.
The script definitely tries harder. Rather than aping the first flick, which flat out aped Commando, this time we get something that's part First Blood and part Die Hard, and hell yes, I know how awesome that sounds. Unfortunately, what looks great on paper, doesn't always translate well to film, and that definitely applies here. The first act lacks any sense of real urgency, and the sense of "goofy fun" that permeated the original flick is vacant, replaced by a broken sense of scale that has an exotic summer retreat feeling more like some dude's summer home, bad guys with unclear motives and even less personality, and a lot of dudes dressed in black stalking around at night. In spite of the more earnest writing attempt, I can't help but thinking a Commando rip-off would have served this one a little better. Perhaps the fault lies with the director, or maybe the screenplay was just a touch too ambitious for the project's scope.
There are tiny droplets of action early on, but things don't really heat up until the second half, which is a total shame. Director Roel Reine (Pistol Whipped) certainly stages some flashy gunfights and chop sockey action. There's plenty of ultra-violence to spare, including torture by steam press, knife kills, and squibs o' plenty. DiBiase's physicality is definitely a boon to the picture, and he sells the action extremely well. If only there were more forward momentum early on, stifling yawns is not something you want your audience to be doing during your action flick.
I'd love to say the cast gives it their all, but the villains -- led by Temuera Morrison (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) -- don't do a whole lot but run around and shoot guns. Ted DiBiase does fit well, looking considerably less uncomfortable with this whole "acting" thing than John Cena did, and Michael Rooker (The Replacement Killers) pops in to chew a bit of scenery as an ex-army guy hiding out in the South Pacific. The character beats are all predictable, and you won't get many surprises. Still, no one really out-and-out sucked.
At first glance, Fox's DVD looks pretty stacked, with several pure fluff promotional bits, including brief looks at the production, the director, and the star. However, there is one bit -- highlighting DiBiase's battle royale with two Muay Thai henchmen in a utility room -- that is dismantled and shown to the viewer in segmented form, from the point of view of several cameras used to film the scene. Steadicam mounts and handheld cameras were used pretty effectively, and it gives you a very good idea of just what goes into constructing this type of fight scene for your typical action flick. There are also some extended and deleted scenes which wouldn't have added anything worthwhile to the flick at all.
My review copy having been a screener disc, I can't comment on the picture quality of The Marine 2 beyond saying it looked absolutely wretched. The sound, however, was pretty booming, to the point of being overpoweringly bass heavy. The gunshots and explosions were satisfying enough.
You want to watch Ted DiBiase kick some ass? I thought so. Just be prepared to wade through some bog to get to the good parts. Dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted/Extended Scenes