In many screenplays, a movie’s entire progression becomes evident after its first third. Some don’t even need that much time. If Man of the Year and The Marine barely register on the pop climate it’s because they aren’t actually new movies. These autumn regurgitations foresake surprise (and interest)—begging the question of why their makers think people want to experience movies in the first place.
The first sign of ambivalence in Man of the Year is Robin Williams’ casting as a distinctive television comic, when instead he comes across exactly as Robin Williams. This misjudgment is a unifying theme of Barry Levinson’s limp leftist polemic. Eschewing personality, it mistakes pandering for insight.
Acknowledging Americans’ growing dependency on talk show comedians as news sources, Man of the Year has late night comic Tom Dobbs (Williams) petitioned into the Presidential election. Dobbs’ promise that he’s “for the people” is Levinson’s way of making him a political hero without taking the risk of taking a political stance on any issue beyond the sorry state of US leaders. But it doesn’t matter. It’s all part of the fish-out-of-water formula tested in Dave, The Distinguished Gentleman and Head of State.
Levinson’s attempt at satirizing celebrity-infatuation doesn’t make the logical step of acknowledging that most modern media coverage of political leaders is its own star-obsessed entertainment journalism. When a voting system employee (Laura Linney) uncovers a miscalculation that got Dobbs the presidency, the movie shifts gears into a half-hearted thriller. The pieces don’t fit, and they aren’t exciting on their own.
Whether you laugh or sigh at the WWE logo that opens The Marine is a good indication of whether or not you will actually enjoy this 1980s action artifact. It’s so boneheaded, the movie’s occasional self-mocking will likely be lost on some viewers. Lines like, “We’re not going around them, we’re going through them,” have the same effect regardless of whether the movie knows they’re ridiculous or not.
Wrestler John Cena looks like Matt Damon playing The Incredible Hulk. As John Triton, he’s discharged, with honour, from the Marine Corps. Returning home to his wife, Triton realizes that domesticity can be good. Then some crazed jewel thieves (led by Robert Patrick) get trigger-happy in a gas station and kidnap his wife. This is useful, as it adds the dangerous excitement of having an angry pro wrestler chase them through South Carolina forests.
The chase ensues for the middle half hour of the movie, as director John Bonito establishes a repetitive three-part editing pattern. 1) The villains walk through the woods, while the comic relief black guy complains that brothers hate insects. 2) John Triton jumps over giant roots like Hawkeye from the Last of the Mohicans. 3) A police helicopter circles overhead. It’s about the only “action” in The Marine that’s possible to follow. Dialogue scenes are even more troubled: At one point, “Duelling Banjos” from Deliverance plays as a man recounts his childhood of sexual abuse.
The Marine is not a legitimate return to the muscular action hero genre. It’s best suited for Saturday night cable.
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