Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin stars as the title Marine Corps sergeant who has come home on leave to visit his sisters. They’re struggling to keep their home, and the youngest (Ashley Bell) is unemployed and seeing a total douchebag he doesn’t like the look of. One day, Bell and said douchebag boyfriend are witness to a killing carried out by Neal McDonough and his crew, who quickly round the duo up. McDonough is a nutjob domestic terrorist who is anti-capitalist...to the extreme. Get it? ‘Coz he’s an extremist? Anyhoo, Miz gets wind of this and decides to go into action to rescue his kid sister...and the douchebag if he has time. Meanwhile, the FBI (headed by Nicola Anderson) are attempting to get Miz to help them out, or ask him to stay away altogether. Michael Eklund and Darren Shahlavi are McDonough’s goons, with the former about as reliable as...well, nothing really.
Having watched WWE/F on and off since 1986 means that when reviewing their films, I come from a completely different perspective than most reviewers (And so, if you’re not familiar with wrestling at all, there’s plenty of other reviews of this film out there if you’d rather read those. I won’t be offended...much). Now seeing this, the third film in the “Marine” series, the casting alone makes for interesting pondering. I mean, the first film had John Cena, then and now pretty much the biggest superstar (or, to use the cringe-worthy WWE parlance, ‘Superstar’) in the company. The second film featured third-generation superstar Ted DiBiase Jr...who was borderline middle of the road at the time (if not even worse), and who now doesn’t even work for WWE. Now comes this 2013 film from director Scott Wiper (WWE’s “The Condemned”, with ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin) and his co-writer Declan O’Brien (writer-director of the “Wrong Turn” sequels). The star? Former WWE Champion and former “Real World” reality TV star Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin. When he was champ, he was one of the most obnoxious heels (bad guys) in the business, but off-screen was also a pretty good rep for the company in terms of media attention. Right now, Miz is unfortunately struggling to find traction because someone thought it would be a great idea to turn the naturally charismatic (in a super-annoying way) bad guy into a ‘babyface’ (good guy). It has been a disaster. He’s playing the hero in this film too, and to non-wrestling fans out there who see this and wonder how such a relatively bland guy could have ever possibly been one of the top stars in the company, believe me he’s capable of being much, much better. I understand why they turned him (he has marketability, social media presence and seems like a decent enough guy) and I understand why he was cast as the hero in this, but both times he has failed pretty badly. Whether he’s a nice guy in real life or not, when playing a good guy in fictional circumstances...he’s generic as hell, as it robs him of everything he does well as a performer(annoy people, for instance). I will say this though, from a ‘Superstar’ status, at least Miz is (and always has been) ahead of Mr. DiBiase. I bet WWE regret that decision now (though in fairness, “The Marine 2” is a better film than this one and DiBiase proved no worse at acting than Miz does here. I’m just coming from a wrestling POV).
Plot-wise this is standard, if not incompetent stuff, but the problem is that it plays a lot like the first film, but on a lesser budget and with lesser stars. Wiper and O’Brien seem to have realised this and so they’ve replaced super-bad bank robbers with half-baked extremists. Sadly, it doesn’t come off, through no fault of the supporting cast. Neal McDonough’s character is simply not hateful enough. He’s actually good in the role as written, and the character is certainly doing bad things, but he seems like the wrong bad guy for this particular film. A more clear-cut hissable villain is what this film really required, possibly one with a more physical threat to him, too. This guy’s just trying to force America into wealth redistribution via violent means. Nuance should not exist in this dojo, that’s for sure, and I just don’t think the hero, the villain, and the film itself are a good match.
But to be honest, the hero isn’t especially well-written, either. One of the things I liked about “The Marine 2” (which seemed to do a bit more with its meagre budget than this one does) was that DiBiase’s military training came in handy quite frequently. Here...not nearly as often. Miz is flat and not cast to his best advantage. Say what you will about John Cena, but he was spot-on as a hero in the first film (albeit a hero with seemingly no wrists), and has undeniable screen presence. Miz...can’t even deliver narration with much enthusiasm, and it makes a wrestling guy like me spend most of the film thinking of who would’ve been better in the role (My short list? In order of best to least suited; Chris Jericho, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, and Xavier Woods). Miz thankfully doesn’t have the freakish physique of a wrestler, which makes him seem more of an everyman kinda guy, but he simply has his limits.
Much better are bad guys McDonough (whom I don’t normally like) and Michael Eklund, and the film would be so much lesser without them, believe me. McDonough at the very least makes up for his awful bad guy turn in “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li” (Seriously, can anyone explain to me why he had an Irish accent in that piece of crap?). Eklund in particular is great as the guy you spend the entire film wondering why no one has knocked him on his arse. The dude is begging to be decapitated from moment one, even pissing off his cohorts. He’s that much of an annoying pissant...kinda like Miz in his heyday, really, but much scummier. I always enjoy Eklund on screen, and hope he makes it big someday. He’s good at what he does. It’s a shame that badass Darren Shahlavi is wasted, really only allowed to show his stuff in a late fight with Miz. It’s the film’s action highlight, but no freakin’ way would Miz win if that fight was legit, man. No way. Credit where it’s due, Wiper has learned his lesson from “The Condemned” and doesn’t shake the camera like he’s Michael J. Fox every five seconds, but when shaky-cam is employed it’s gimmicky FPS stuff which is just stupid, really.
The down home scenery is nice, the bad guys bring it, but with familiar plotting and a miscast and underwhelming lead, this is frankly a bit boring. Way too many characters, which doesn’t help either. I’m not sure I’ll be checking in if they make another one of these films, unless someone really insane is cast in the lead like Santino Marella, The Great Khali, or Yoshi Tatsu (Hey, it’s not like they’re using Yoshi much these days, is it? Not sure if his English-speaking skills are anywhere near up to snuff yet, though).
Question for wrestling fans: Anyone else find it funny that Miz’s character name is Jake Carter, which was the ring name given to former WWE wrestler Vader’s son on his brief stint with NXT (before getting released for being frankly a bit ordinary)? I mean, the Jake Carter character and the guy playing him seemed very Miz-like to me, and now Miz is playing a guy with the same name. Bizarre.