The Marine 3: Homefront (Blu-Ray) Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 03.07.2013
The Miz steps in front of the camera to take on WWE Studio's longest-running franchise in The Marine 3: Homefront! But is it worth checking out? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
Directed by: Scott Wiper Written by: Scott Wiper and Declan O'Brien
Starring: Mike "The Miz" Mizanin - Jake Carter Neal McDonough - Jonas Pope Jared Keeso - Harkin Michael Eklund - Eckert Ashley Bell - Lilly Camille Sullivan - Amanda Jeffrey Ballard - Darren Aleks Paunovic - Gabriel Darcy Laurie - Teddy
DVD Release Date: 03/05/2013 Running Time: 91 minutes
Rated R for violence and language
It may be strange to realize it, but WWE has been in the movie business for over ten years now. The sports-entertainment behemoth founded WWE Films (since renamed as WWE Studios) in 2002 and started off with co-productions of films starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson such as The Scorpion King, The Rundown and Walking Tall before stepping out on its own with a trio of films that were solely produced by the nascent studio as starring vehicles for some of their more recognizable in-ring talent. One of those was The Marine, which starred John Cena and still stands as the studio's most successful film to date. That led the studio to turn the title into a straight-to-video franchise, with Ted DiBiase Jr. taking on the role of a Marine sniper in The Marine 2 in 2009. For the third film in the franchise, reality star-turned-WrestleMania main eventer Mike "The Miz" Mizanin has stepped into the franchise's shoes with The Marine 3: Homefront, looking to make a splash in the STV marketplace for the company.
Mizanin stars as Jake Carter, a sergeant in the Marine Corps' Special Operations Unit who is returning to his home of Bridgeton, Washington for two weeks on leave. Jake is looking forward to the time off and the opportunity to spend time with his two sisters, the reliable Amanda (Sullivan) and wild child Lilly (Bell). Unfortunately it isn't as easy as all that; Lilly's inability to keep a job frustrates Jake, as does the guy she is dating while Amanda is financially struggling to keep their home. Even Jake's best friend Harkin, who now serves as the city sheriff, sees that the Marine's lifestyle is at odds with his family's ways.
However, all of that changes when Lilly and her boyfriend Darren (Ballard) accidentally become witness to a murder and are kidnapped by Jonas Pope (McDonough), a former college professor who has turned to terrorism against the one-percenters of the world. Pope has a plan to unleash an attack on America, and Lilly and Darren are taken captive so as not to alert the authorities. Before that happens though, Lilly gets a phone call off and Jake goes into offensive mode, determined to get his little sister safely away from Pope. But with the FBI on the sidelines conducting their own investigation and Pope's formidable group of armed anti-corporate zealots in the way, it may not be as easy as Jake hopes.
For The Marine 3, WWE Studios turned to one of the men behind their first trio of films in Scott Wiper. Wiper co-wrote and directed Steve Austin's 2007 film The Condemned--a somewhat-underrated film in its own right--and he serves the same roles here, working with Declan O'Brien (the Wrong Turn franchise) in shaping the film's screenplay. Wiper and O'Brien obviously knew their film wouldn't be on a blockbuster budget and they wrote accordingly; this is a modestly-budgeted project with modest goals. There are no epic, world-shattering consequences here; though Pope's terrorist plans would certainly shake up the American consciousness, this isn't some kind of world war-type scenario and Pope's plans are somewhat incidental anyway. The story here isn't about a man trying to prevent a terrorist takeover; rather, the bad guys' plot is just lays the groundwork for the main thrust of the story, which is Jake trying to rescue his sister. In that it makes for a basic story and set-up, which Wiper as a director can focus on instead of trying to paint a larger picture than he has the resources to realize. This is scriptwriting 101: the first act establishes the characters and the relationships between them, the second act creates the main thrust of the conflict and the final act lets everything loose for the climax.
It is important to note that just because the story is basic doesn't mean that the script is terrible. Wiper and O'Brien's plotting of scenes is impressively economical and every scene serves a purpose. Take, for example, an early scene in which Jake heads to meet Harkin at a bar and sees Lilly there, then gets into a fight. This is part of the character build toward the eventual action; in most action films this portion is just stalling so you aren't blowing things up for ninety minutes straight. With this film however you get several things across in the scene; it further underscores the alienation between Lilly and Jake and aims to instill some sympathy in Jake's sisters by showing that even though he's the hero, he's not perfect and makes mistakes. It is a portion of the opening act that actually builds character, which is a welcome surprise for a film like this.
This is Mike "The Miz" Mizanin's first leading film role, though he has acted before in guest stints on USA shows like Psych and Pair of Kings. For the role of Jake Carter, Miz has the challenge that all professional wrestlers have; he has to dial it back from his over-the-top ring persona that has to be larger than life for the cameras and the arena. In a funny way it is not unlike the jump from Vaudeville to the big screen that occurred during the advent of film except for the fact that unlike the vaudevillians, professional wrestlers find themselves amongst actors who have been working a natural style in front of the camera for quite some time. Miz is able to turn it down quite adequately here; while there are times in the first act where he seems a bit stiff, he makes for a solid action hero once things get going. You can certainly see potential in the man for acting should he wish to; he possesses the requisite charisma and needs only the training and experience at this point.
For the rest of the cast, Wiper made sure to insert some solid actors into the roles that surround Jake. Ashley Bell and Camille Sullivan are good in the roles of Lilly and Amanda, respectively. Bell is best known for her breakout role in The Last Exorcism and its just-released sequel; she seems to be enjoying the opportunity to play a role where she doesn't need to painfully contort her back and she gives Lilly a nice amount of fire. Neal McDonough has a habit of playing villains in lesser films, taking on the lead bad guy in the likes of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, 88 Minutes and Walking Tall. Here he has the opportunity to even things out a bit and go a little less maniacal, which allows him to make a formidable foe. Keeso is an affable best friend while the rest of the cast is fine for what is required of them in stock roles.
As a director, Wiper is no auteur but he gets the job done. Much of the film takes place on a gloriously decrepit ferry that serves as the terrorist base of operations and Wiper does a good job of filming his way around that ship, exploring the nooks and crannies where a gun-wielding bad guy could be around any corner. When he gets off of the boat Wiper loses half a step but still keeps the quality well above your average STV film. Wiper is able to make this relatively micro-budgeted film look good and makes good use of his surroundings. The action takes a more grounded tone than its predecessors; where John Cena's The Marine was all about 1980s-style action sequences where everything was over the top and everything blew up, this film uses a more realistic take on its violence. This isn't to say that nothing blows up or that there is a lack of excitement though, and the fight sequences are cut together in a way that makes sense and is easy to follow, avoiding a trap that many other directors fall into of chopping action sequences up so much that they lose their logical flow. It is all choreographed well thanks to stunt coordinator Ernie Jackson and Wiper films it effectively, helping to push the film into one that, in rare fashion among recent WWE Studios films, achieves what it sets out to do.
Film Rating: 6.5
Twentieth Century Fox partnered with WWE Studios to distribute The Marine 3: Homefront and present the film in a 1.78:1 format with a 1080p AVC format that looks pretty good. Image delineation is sharp and colors are solid, including realistic flesh tones and filled-out blacks; explosions pop with reds and yellows appropriately. The film has a more muted color palette than most action films but this appears to be an artistic choice by Wiper in order to fit with the more grounded tone than a flaw in the video transfer. There are a few small digital artifacts, but otherwise things look clear. This is about as good as a film can look using the kinds of equipment that direct-to-video productions often use and the results are as pleasant a surprise as the film itself.
Video Rating: 8.0
The Marine 3: Homefront's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds great on TVs without surround sound, though those with surround systems will note that the mix is very much centered on the front channels. While there are occasional transitions to the rear channels, most of the mix is kept in the main channels which is a bit of a disappointment and the rear is left for Robert Revell's solid scoring work. While that mix could have used some more depth, the mix does get credit for keeping everything very well-balanced in terms of sound levels. Ambient sounds and score never get in the way of the dialogue, which always comes through clearly without being too overwhelming. This is not a mix that will give your system a workout, but it is adequate for what is required.
Audio Rating: 7.5
Fox has packaged The Marine 3 in the standard Blu-Ray keep case with an action shot of a gun-wielding Mizanin on the front. The set comes with a Blu-Ray Disc as well as a DVD copy, both of which have artwork on them instead of the standard blue-and-silver or silver designs. The menus are easy to navigate. It is perfectly adequate packaging, nothing more or less.
Packaging Rating: 7.0
Shipwrecked: Breaking Down the Boat: (8:05) The first featurette on the disc explores the broken-down ferry that serves as the setting for the majority of the film. Miz, Bell, Wiper, McDonough and the rest of the cast talk about the ferry as a setting and what it was like to film on it, making sure to point out that it was not a constructed set but an actual boat well past the end of its functional time. In the end most of them agree that it will probably be a while before they set foot on a boat again, though Wiper says that he'll miss the setting.
The Miz Rocks the Boat: (8:17) Miz takes us on a tour of the various rooms in the ferry in this behind-the-scenes short, including the room where he has a fight sequence with one of the primary villains and doing a walkthrough of his initial gun battle to get on the boat. The featurette was filmed toward the end of the shoot and many of the sets have been cleared out but it still gives us a look at the atmosphere-heavy set that the ferry provides.
The Miz Declassified: (10:07) This is the feature that focuses primarily on the Miz and details his story, from a teen living in a small town in Ohio through a brief look at his WWE career into his first starring role here. Wiper, Bell, technical advisor Darrion Holiwell and others talk about Mizanin's learning process to portray the character of Jake including his request to learn how to effectively portray a Marine and his insistence on performing as many stunts as they would let him, as well as his desire to learn the craft of acting. The featurette is effective in showing that Mizanin was taking the whole thing seriously and giving it his all, which benefitted the film.
Casting Call: Ready to Enlist: (7:58) Perhaps the most fun featurette on the disc, this takes a look at the casting call that WWE held at the WrestleMania 28 Axxess fan event to give one fan a walk-on role in the film. That role went to Mason Norman, who is a member of the armed services himself. Included is the Skype phone call where Miz informs Norman that he got the role as well as some behind the scenes interviews with Norman himself. Norman's enthusiasm is infectious and he is clearly having a blast, making this a thoroughly enjoyable little short.
Miz Journal: (6:52) This short has Mizanin walking around during production with a camera and documenting his experience. Miz takes us through various experiences on the film and while he is far from a skilled camera operator he keeps things fun for the relatively short length of this featurette.
Special Features Rating: 7.5
The 411: WWE Studios gives fans a pleasant surprise with The Marine 3: Homefront, a film that stands above your average straight-to-video feature. Mike "The Miz" Mizanin gives a solid performance for a first-time lead as Jake Carter and the cast around him is very decent while Scott Wiper's work as both a director and co-writer gets the job done. The film takes a modest approach for an action feature and thus avoids the trap of trying to go too far; this allows him to succeed on all fronts, making for a film that has some thrills and makes for an enjoyable experience. The Blu-Ray's technical specs are good and the special features are enjoyable, making for a film that will have something to enjoy for most fans of WWE or action flicks.