by Mark Longden

I hope you’ll forgive a rather generic opening paragraph, SteelChair readers. And hopefully you’ll like it enough to want more wrestling-themed movie reviews. Any weird or wonderful movies you’d like me to cover, leave a comment and I’ll turn my critical eye to them…

There’s been a long-standing link between pro wrestling and acting. From Mexico featuring cultural icon el Santo in dozens of movies (partly so people who lived in tiny villages could see their hero wrestle), Ed Wood using part-time wrestler Tor Johnson, movies like Night And The City, and Highlander having pro wrestling as a backdrop for crucial scenes – you don’t need any more examples! By far the biggest link between pro wrestling and acting in the last 25 years or so, though, is pro wrestlers turning into movie stars. Hulk Hogan blazed a trail, despite not being very good, and now we have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. No-one seems to have a bad word to say about him, he’s popular, generous with his time, and is a really really good movie leading man. He can do serious action, family movies and comedy (he’s one of the great modern hosts of Saturday Night Live, for example) and is now more famous as a movie star than he was as a wrestler, despite popping back in to WWE every now and again.

Johnson is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, though, and WWE at least has the sense to realise this by not trying to get a lookalike. But they also really want to make money, so they formed WWE Films to make the sort of normal genre films everyone makes, just starring wrestlers. They’re in the hinterland between big-budget studio movies and small indies in terms of budget and cast, and don’t always work in terms of promoting their wrestling stars, but they’re often fun and this’ll be the first of our reviews of their movies. John Cena is the biggest star, both of their wrestling and movie divisions, but we’ve also got Ted DiBiase Jr, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, Kane and HHH headlining movies too.

Cena takes his "believable" punches into acting
Cena takes his “believable” punches into acting

Cena gets this one (though he doesn’t come back for the sequels) and he’s John Triton, a guy booted out of the Marines for being too awesome – normally, when I say this I’m joking, but here it’s almost literally the reason given. After coming home from the Middle East, he gets a security guard gig and is basically the perfect husband. The other side of the story is Robert Patrick and his cronies, stealing a huge pile of diamonds. Patrick’s character is basically lifted from “Erudite Psychopaths for Beginners”, the same character you’ve seen in a million shows, but his crew are pretty funny, a nice gentle humour which wafts through from time to time, making it a lot easier to handle than your average low-budget action movie.

Assuming too little of wrestling fans, perhaps, you could sum this movie up in one sentence: “Ex-marine tracks down the jewel thieves who kidnapped his wife”. It’s mostly set in the swamp, but there’s a pretty fantastic car chase near the “beginning” (the two sides of the story take half an hour to congregate, which isn’t a bad thing but feels weird), and ultimately it’s a nice, tight, no-nonsense chase thriller. Cena, while substantially better than most other wrestler/actors, still isn’t that great, but he’s fine, really. Patrick’s great, even if he is just one big cliché, Kelly Carlson as Mrs Marine is fine too, and is a bit more than just your average “help me, husband!” character we get in this sort of thing. Plus, if you love explosions, you’ll love this movie – best guess, they were offered a bunch of disused buildings and just went all out. I think John Cena dives out of more buildings as they’re in the process of blowing up than any other guy in any other movie, ever.

Cena. Fleeing an exploding building. Again.
Cena. Fleeing an exploding building. Again.

It’s all sort of obvious, and the “twist” is telegraphed from a mile away, but that’s not always a bad thing. Director John Bonito hasn’t done much of anything since, and neither has writer Michelle Gallagher – it’s not like either of them are terrible, so maybe working for WWE was enough to burn them both out on the movie business. I get the feeling this is going to be my “complaint” about many WWE Films – they’ll be competent, but sort-of dull (I’m genuinely interested in how Ted DiBiase Jr does in the sequel).

Rating: THUMBS UP!

(If you like this and want to read more of my [non pro-wrestling related] reviews, please visit www.iscfc.net)