Ranking ‘The Marine’ films from ultimate to most ultimate!

In the past decade, WWE wrestlers like Dwayne Johnson, Dave Bautista, and John Cena have found success in films that few could have predicted. In the midst of their rise to stardom, WWE’s long-running but neglected studio film series found a home on direct-to-video. I’m referring to none other than The Marine series.

John Cena began the series on the big screen in 2001, with Ted Dibiasse and Mike “The Miz” Mizanin following him. In addition to the revolving leading men, a variety of talented direct-to-video directors were brought on board to helm the franchise. Roel Reiné, James Nunn, and William Kaufmen all got an opportunity to play in the WWE sandbox. A series that began with mediocrity eventually developed into a strong showcase of heart and craftsmanship. At Ultimate Action Movie Club, we are delighted to find the best of the series.

6) The Marine 3: Homefront

Aside from being the film that introduces The Miz in the titular role, The Marine 3 doesn’t really bring much else to the table. Director and Co-writer Scott Wiper guides us through a story centered on Jake Carter (The Miz) as he tries to adjust to returning home from service. Carter’s return is full of bar fights and familial melodrama about him taking control of the household away from his two sisters. While I like the idea of a dtv action film tackling the subject of a soldier returning home, the film doesn’t really do anything interesting with it. During Jake’s rocky adjustment we also follow the bank robber Jonas Pope played by the wonderful Neal Mcdonough. Mcdononough, brings his villainy charm and does the best that he can with this deranged robin hood figure. 

When Carter is forced to cross paths with Pope and his team, The action we do get is bland and full of things that you’ve seen before but done better on this scale. Although, the fight between the late Darren Shahlavi and The Miz is a standout as the only decent fight scene in the film. This fight  made me realize that The Miz can make a great action hero. He draws you in with his charisma and his physical prowess. If only the film surrounding his debut could have been better.

5) The Marine

Surprisingly, a film series that has a lot of great entries has a not so good beginning. As a whole, The Marine is a mixed bag who’s bad points outweigh its good ones. By the end of the film, you will likely belong to one of two groups. The group that thinks it’s a notch below mediocre or it’s so bad it’s good.  In the end, I ended up in the former.. 

This is your standard kidnapped wife and highly skilled husband on the hunt for her plot. Overdone or generic stories have never bothered me, because execution is everything. And the Marine’s execution is a slog, because it doesn’t offer anything worthwhile. In retrospect, it’s fun to see John Cena’s potential in  2006, and Robert Patrick is having a great time playing the villain.

Fights are over edited to the point where they lose all excitement. Theres meta jokes about Robert Patrick’s Terminator past and rock candy stories implying childhood sexual abuse, the humor is varied. I wish I knew what the writers were thinking. If that doesn’t scare you away, you’ll enjoy some nice pyrotechnics and a gruesome final fight that is too little too late.

4) The Marine 2

While the first film was full of vanity and exaggeration, the direct to video sequel finds itself stripped of the studio gloss and given a lowkey 

tone. Mostly, it’s for the better.  Our new marine Joe Linwood (Ted DiBiase Jr.) is on a mission to rescue his wife who is being held hostage by Damo (Temura Morrison)  and his group of terrorists.  Shot on location in Thailand, Roel Reiné makes the locations pop and adds enough variation so you won’t get visually bored. Reiné stretches the already thin budget to give the most entertainment he possibly could. There’s a legitimate one take shot full of practical explosions along with a very interesting one take fight near the end of the film. It’s a good show of craftsmanship from Reiné and the crew.

Taking the series direct to video is a clear course correction but it didn’t come without its pitfalls. The film takes a while to get started and we’re stuck hanging out with human planks of wood DiBiase Jr. His physicality for the film is decent, but he lacks the charisma needed to be a hero. It’s really obvious When he shares scenes with the likes of Michael Rooker and Temura Morrison. Despite the underwhelming lead, your bound to get enjoyment out from Reiné’s film.

3) The Marine 4: Moving Target

Its predecessors were guilty of dragging their feet but, The Marine 4: Moving Target strips away the unnecessary and throws us directly into the action. The Miz returns for his second appearance as Jake Carter.  He has left his hometown and is now working on a security detail tasked with protecting  corporate whistleblower Liv Tanis (Melissa Roxburgh ). The straightforward assignment takes a turn for the worse once her former employer sends Simon Vogel (Josh Blacker) and his fellow mercenaries after them. If the third film left you luke warm on The Miz’s performance as Jake Carter, the fourth film will surely change that,  his notable growth as a lead can’t go unnoticed. His lines of dialogue come with a greater sense of confidence, and he performs the action with intensity and focus.

Director William Kaufman takes a simple story and makes it one long gunfight, but manages to keep it thrilling the whole 90 minutes. Now, if there’s one thing you should know about William Kaufman is that he has mastered the art of shoot outs. He puts you in the middle of the bullet storm, you can almost feel the brass whiz pass you. But what matters most to me is that he injects a sense of danger that seems lost on a lot of films that feature guns. The bloodshed and manic pursuits only escalate to a cathartic First Blood-esque finale. The Marine 4 is everything you can ask for from a dtv action film, violent, fast, and a great sense of action on screen, despite the limits.

2) The Marine 5

With The Marine 4’s stunning display of bullet hell, the next installment continues the upward trend. A hired driver takes part in the assassination biker gang leader, the remaining and  rabid crew seeks revenge on him in an empty parking garage as he bleeds to death.The now EMT  Jake Carter, is the only person standing between the dying man and the bikers that want to finish the job. The thrilling intro doesn’t stop with just a failed assassination, Carter is forced to face defeat when he fails to save a woman from a car accident. 

If you have seen any of James Nunn’s work you can quickly discover that he has an affinity for hand to hand fights. This can be seen in the constant evolving brawls between Scott Adkins and Stuart Bennet in Nunn’s first WWE film,  Eliminators (2016). Nunn brings the same energy but adapts it to a smaller scale. Nunn uses the small scale to great effect, the parking garage where majority of the film takes place  turns into a concrete trap that’s slowly closing in on our lead characters. By the end, the cat-and-mouse game turns into a mad dash through an abandoned amusement park. Not only does the film have great action, it keeps you on your toes with its great pacing. 

1) The Marine 6: Close Quarters

Built on its foundation of excellent craftsmanship and the dedication of its leading man, the franchise doesn’t lose any steam once it gets to the finish line. Instead, the sixth and final film is an emotional high point and pushes the series further in terms of technical achievements than it has ever been during its direct-to-video lifespan. The film’s pathos emerges early, when Jake Carter and his old friend Luke Trapper (Shawn Michaels) go to an abandoned brewery to help a veteran who has given up on society. This act of selflessness causes the two to cross paths with the best villain of the series Maddy Hayes played by WWE’s Becky Lynch and it turns into a fight to survive.

Nunn’s sense of violence, first seen in the fifth film, has been refined and amplified with help from fight choreographer Tim Man. Man’s style can only be characterized by hard hits, grit, and a bit of extravagance. Shotgun shells rip into torsos and kicks fly through the air, this series has never had better action. Miz successfully balances action and emotional weight in his last outing, fully immersing himself in Jake Carter all the way to the end. You’ll cheer during well-composed fights but leave with a heavy heart. Undeniably, The Marine 6 is the best compared to  its predecessors, it’s also the culmination of a film series that only got better and better. Ultimately, it proves that dtv gold is just a few steps away if you know where to look. 

Article By: Cameron Levins is a filmmaker, comic book lover and fight scene enthusiast. Ever since his dad showed him Bruce Lee as a kid, he became obsessed with action films. In his free time he’s either day dreaming about an action scene or researching fight choreographers. Follow Cameron on Twitter here.