With biceps the size of watermelons and the physical grace of a golem, WWE professional wrestler John Cena takes his place in the pantheon of American action-movie stars with The Marine
, satisfying our country’s craving for one-man wrecking crews who can take out entire platoons of enemy soldiers using just their guts, their honor, and a big gun. Like those who came before him – Schwarzenegger, Stallone, the Rock – Cena, playing former Marine John Triton, believes in justice, strength, and the philosophy that there’s no reason to walk out of a standing building when you can dive out of an exploding one. After being discharged from the Marines for disobeying an order in Iraq (while saving the lives of three other American soldiers), Triton returns home to South Carolina to live a simple, quiet life with his wife, Kate (Carlson). That life turns decidedly unquiet, however, when a gang of deadly jewel thieves, led by Rome (Patrick), kidnaps Kate and leaves Triton for dead. Bad idea, that. Because after he dusts himself off, Triton grabs the first car he can find and goes looking for revenge. What follows is a maelstrom of gunfire, explosions, car chases, fistfights, and action-movie camera trickery, as Triton takes out the kidnappers one by one. What Cena does can’t rightfully be termed “acting.” He huffs and puffs and runs and dives and fights, but he doesn’t emote or communicate anything even remotely human; he doesn’t even bruise. And yet despite all that, we’re still pulling for him. And not just because bad guys have kidnapped his wife, but because when he looks off into the distance with his mouth half open and cocks his head to one side like a confused terrier, you can’t help but feel for the guy: He just looks so innocent and harmless, like an enormous kid – and this despite his habit of throwing people through plate-glass windows and stabbing them with 12-inch hunting knives. As Triton’s nemesis, Patrick steals the show – killing, lying, and stealing with glee and generally making a seven-course meal out of the role. He looks like the sinister twin brother of West Wing
-era Martin Sheen and acts like an all-too-human version of the T-1000 cyborg he played in Terminator 2
: ruthless and cold-blooded but full of piss, vinegar, and gallows humor. Patrick leaves no scenery unchewed, and, in doing so, he gives life to an otherwise by-the-book script and proves once again that in Hollywood, it’s usually the bad guys who turn out to be the best characters.