Most people don’t take professional wrestling very seriously… and those people often wind up taking a clothesline to the face. I was surprised when I made the personal realization there’s a lot of crossover between professional wrestlers and some very good action films. Wrasslers have repeatedly demonstrated their prowess at choreographing film fights on the fly, and much like Hong Kong’s famed martial artists they’re willing to take a convincing punch or two while the camera is rolling. Still don’t believe me? Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride showcased a great performance by Andre the Giant. The greatest street fight in American cinema was fought between Keith David and Rowdy Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s They Live. More recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has become an integral part of the ridiculously immortal Fast saga, and is currently the highest paid star in Hollywood. Dave Batista has also won audience and box office approval as Drax the Destroyer in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
Weekly wrasslin’ on TV and at county fairgrounds across America might be a cheesy fight-centric soap opera, but it’s had an undeniable role in shaping American action film culture. Can WWE Studios’ The Marine 5: Battleground honor the cult legacy of films like They Live and Jeremy Lin’s Fast franchise?
The Movie (2.5/5)
First off, let’s get the facts out of the way. James Nunn’s The Marine 5: Battleground is a direct-to-video sequel that forms the latest installment of the Marine franchise. While this series hasn’t seen much box office buzz, it has had some serious legs in rental stores and via On-Demand. The first film starred John Cena (DUH DUH DUH) as the titular character, and then a series of strange events eventually led to Mike “The Miz” Mizanin helming the franchise starting with the third film. Notably, The Miz got his start in the celebrity spotlight by starring in the tenth season of MTV’s The Real World. He then managed to transition his reality show stardom into a long standing wrasslin’ career. Neither The Miz or John Cena ever served in the Marine Corps.
Marine 5 bears several hallmarks of low budget filmmaking. The plot verges on nonsense and neither The Miz, as ex-marine Jake Carter, or his co-star Anna Van Hooft make convincing EMTs. Most of the location shooting was done at night and half the movie was filmed in an empty parking garage. They should have made more use of the amusement park they filmed at, but I imagine they were working on a very tight schedule. The storyline is your typical one-man-army-saves-the-day genre film, but let’s face it, if you’re watching this for the plot or scenic cinematography you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re watching this movie for the fights, then you’re doing it right. Marine 5’s packaging boldly proclaims, “THE MOST WWE SUPERSTARS EVER IN A LIVE-ACTION FEATURE FILM!” During the film, The Miz fights his way through a WWE Star-studded biker gang including Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, Naomi, and Heath Slater. The hand-to-hand combat is very enjoyable and the fight scenes have plenty of cheesy one liners. The final fight culminates with The Miz facing off against villain (heel) Bo Dallas. I normally try to avoid spoilers, but you definitely don’t want to miss it when The Miz throws Bo Dallas off a 12 story building onto an ambulance.
While the martial arts segments of the film were very enjoyable, I thought there was way too much gunplay. Nunn should have focused on making Marine 5 more like Rambo, and less like Saving Private Ryan. When I sit down and invest my time in a movie like this, I want to see the WWE stars laying down the smackdown. The gunplay was boring and I often found myself wishing the gun shots were fists instead of bullets.
One aspect of the movie’s technical work that pleased me was the smooth camerawork during the featured martial arts scenes. The people in front of the camera knew how to fight, and they didn’t have to use Hollywood magic to hide any actor’s martial ineptitude. Its nice when you can actually tell what is happening in an action scene, and the steady and smooth camerawork allowed me to appreciate the hard work the wrasslers put into the fights to make them look convincing.
Video and Audio (3/5)
For the most part, the viewing experience in Marine 5 is very average. It’s a made-for-TV movie and it looks and sounds like it. I found nothing work nitpicking about the audio quality, but I did find myself noticing digital artifacting and video noise during dark scenes and several cheaply done effects shots during gunfights. Digital cameras and night shooting have always been problematic and Marine 5 features a lot of poorly lit locations. I imagine Nunn and the film technicians were as relieved when I was during the multiple scenes where the characters found a breaker box and switched on all the overhead lights.
Special Features/Packaging (2.5/5)
- Evening the Odds (Featurette)
- Superstar Studded (Featurette)
Technical Specs (click for technical FAQs)
Region Coding: None (Region Free)
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
5.1 DTS-MD MA (English, French (PAR), German)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (Portuguese, Russian)
English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Classic), Romanian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai, Turkish
Overall (2.75/5) – The Axe Man Cometh.
The Marine 5: Battleground releases on Blu-ray Tuesday April 25th, 2017. Order it now at Amazon.com.