The Marine 5: Battleground (2017)

I’d normally be a little sad at coming to the end of another review series, but the “Marine” movies don’t feel like a series at all. Three different stars, and even when it settled down with one guy, as parts 3-5 did with Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, it never really felt the same. Writers and directors were always different, and he never even had the same job – he was an actual off-duty Marine in part 3, a private security guy in part 4, and an EMT (paramedic) in part 5. Still, not a single person ever has gone “I wish this vanity project by the wrestling company was more internally consistent” so let’s get on with the final “Marine”!

The WWE did finally take my advice, though (because you know they read random movie review blogs). Almost all their movies to this point have starred one wrestler, surrounded by jobbing actors and the occasional slumming B-lister; but my thought always was “they have so many wrestlers on the roster, why not put a bunch of them in one of these movies, see who excels?” So, joining “The Miz” are Maryse (Mizanin’s real-life wife), Heath Slater, Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, and Naomi, all WWE stars, and…they’re all pretty good, and certainly no worse than the sort of people they’d normally hire.

Two rather unwilling-seeming gunmen shoot the head of a biker gang and are chased down by the remaining bikers to the underground parking garage of a closed amusement park. Do amusement parks have underground garages? I’d have assumed it would be a big dirt-lot next door, with bored teenagers directing people. Anyway. One of the shooters is killed and the other wounded, so he calls 911 and says he’s had a heart attack (because the police would respond if he said he’d been shot). Jake Carter (The Miz) and his EMT partner Zoe (Anna Van Hooft) respond, and…well, there’s not a great deal more to say. Enclosed location, good guys who can’t get help, lots of bad guys with guns.

Wait, did I say enclosed location? There’s a huge closed amusement park just above their heads, which would make a great spot for a cat-and-mouse movie, but they ignore that until just past the two-thirds mark. Because…empty concrete car park! Exciting! Although, about four floors down, there’s a random parks & recreation truck which they use for cover. I can buy someone coming to do maintenance in the off-season, but why park so far away from the entrance?

Wait, did I say good guys who can’t get help? We see multiple working payphones in the background of scenes, and one of the bad guys even uses one at one point. The Miz has his cellphone on him yet is unable to just sneak up to the ground floor and use it, free of interference (they waste a couple of minutes sending goons to disable the cell tower, I suppose). And so on.

Wait, did I say lots of bad guys with guns? Despite the biker gang being quite sizeable, only three of them (Axel, Dallas and Naomi) turn up to the garage, with the rest (including gang lieutenant Slater, probably the best wrestling actor in the movie) not showing up til pretty close to the end. It’s a curiously empty movie, perhaps the best indication of its low budget.

There are some surprise deaths, a bit of confusion because two of the bad guys look basically the same (it turns out they’re brothers and I just wasn’t paying attention), and some decent fighting, as The Miz bothers to use moves that an actual trained marine would do. The sense that they’re trapped in there with him, rather than the other way round, is well played too.

But. It’s a long way from being a good film, and is probably the worst since part 2. First up, there’s no sense of where anyone is in relation to each other. People run up and down stairs, hide and seek, but you’ve never got the slightest idea if they’re going towards or away from danger or safety. And there’s so much of that “get to cover, lean out and fire, repeat” stuff that it becomes numbing, like watching minute 10 of an extremely extended driving scene when you don’t know what the end of it will look like. You need variety to your cheesy action B-movie, or you need to be a lot better at your one trick than they are here.

What’s curious is the director, James Nunn, has made good films before. Not only was he assistant director on the excellent “Cockneys vs. Zombies”, he also directed “Eliminators”, the fantastic London-set thriller co-starring former WWE star Stu Bennett (and he approvingly retweeted the ISCFC’s review of said movie). I can only suggest budgetary restrictions forced him to use an extremely boring blank concrete space for two-thirds of proceedings, and that the people who owned the amusement park only let them use it for a day, because he’s a better director than this showed.

Feels like a wasted opportunity, something done because Mizanin signed a contract for three movies, and it was cheaper to make this than to default on it. I look forward to being similarly disappointed when I get to the dregs of the WWE’s output – although I’m not sure I can do the cheesy kid-bodyguard comedy that HHH stars in. Parts 1 and 4 of this “franchise” are worth your time, the rest can be safely avoided.

Rating: thumbs down

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