For most of his adult life, Marine Corps Major Benson Winifred Payne liked to think of himself as the ultimate killing machine. That’s why he’s been deployed nearly a dozen times. But Major Payne is devastated when he’s passed over for promotion and is basically benched from active service.
Payne begs his commanding officer to reconsider, and to give him somebody else to kill. “Sorry, Payne,” he’s told. “There’s nobody else to kill. You’ve killed them all.” This was the moment that the film “Major Payne” won me over.
1995’s “Major Payne” was directed by Nick Castle, and starred Damon Wayans as Major Payne, and Karyn Parsons as Dr. Emily Walburn, Steven Martini as Cadet Alex J. Stone, and Orlando Brown as Cadet Kevin “Tiger” Dunn. I saw the movie by myself the weekend it opened. It was a matinée, so there were only of handfull of people in the theater with me, but I think I was the only one laughing.
I liked Damon Wayans from his days on “In Living Color,” and this movie reminded me of some of his work there. However, I will say “Major Payne” doesn’t break any new ground when it comes tot this types of movies. A lot of the major plot points are things we’ve seen before in movies, and we’ll probably see again.
In the film, Major Payne has trouble adjusting to civilian life, so he ends up taking a job as the officer in charge of the junior ROTC cadet training corps at a private school in Virginia. The members of Payne’s junior ROTC corps are the usual mix you see in movies: there’s a funny guy, a little guy, a fat one, a deaf one, tall ones, short ones, and so on.
Although we see a lot of the school, the only other faculty member we meet is a cute teacher named Dr. Emily Walburn (Karyn Parsons). She is the only one who can get Payne to act like a human being, and the one who keeps having to remind him that these are kids, and not trained Marines.
Throughout the movie, Damon Wayans presents Payne as a tunnel-visioned “killing machine” who sees nothing wrong in applying his values to train the recruits. And we see him put the kids through hell, some of the stuff he does may no even be legal at a school, but it was quite entertaining to see
There are two moments in particular that always make me laugh whenever I happen to catch “Major Payne” on tv. The first one is when young recruit Kevin “Tiger” Dunn tells Major Payne and Ms. Walburn that there’s a monster in his closet. Payne walks into Tiger’s room, and promptly unloads a few rounds into the closet door. He then tells Tiger something like: “If he’s still in there, he ain’t happy.”
My other favorite moment comes when Major Payne is sitting on a bench waiting for a train. He looks at the house across the tracks and daydreams about living there with Ms. Walburn and Tiger. Payne envisions himself grilling, until a guerilla fighter tries to assassinate him.
Payne fights him off by using the grill, and by drowning him in the kiddy pool. But since this is a happy daydream, the scene ends with the bad guy waking up and joining the family for some lemonade.
Even though I’ve seen this type of story countless times, I still enjoy this movie. “Major Payne” is one of those movies that can always make me laugh, no matter what’s going on. This beg the question: Why don’t I own “Major Payne” on dvd?