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The Scorpion King (PG-13)
Official Site
Director: Chuck Russell Producers: Vince McMahon, Steven Sommers
Written by:
Steven Sommers, David Hayter, William Osborne
Cast: The Rock, Kelly Hu, Steven Brand, Michael Clarke Duncan

Rating: out of 5

If I were a studio exec trying to cast a major summer blockbuster, I’m pretty sure my first choice for a leading man wouldn’t be someone who actively and purposefully calls himself "The Rock." There’s just an inherent wrongness to a person who foregoes the accepted proper-noun labels we all know and love in favor of a singular noun that represents an inanimate object. And there’s also the matter of having the word "The" in your name which, unless you’re a King or an Earl, just makes you seem like an ass. Anyway, some studio "brain" thought it would be simply aces to cast The Rock, star of the World Wrestling Federation, in a feature-length action blockbuster and the end result of that little inspiration is The Scorpion King.

Here we have the story of wandering assassin, Mathaias (played by The Rock), a last-of-his-kind type of fellow who’d whack his own mother if the price was right. Mathaias is hired by a klatch of various leaders and kings to hunt down Memnon (Brand), a ruthless warrior/tyrant who is determined to take over everything and rule the world. They decide that the best way to defeat Memnon is to kill his sorceress, Cassandra (Hu), so the big guy goes barreling after her, and thus the plot of the movie is born. As far as plots go, it’s fairly standard and really, no fault here. However, the movie goes wrong with just about everything else involved in the production, so a decent story isn’t really much help.

So how about that Rock—excuse me, The Rock. Is he any good? Is he the next Arnold Schwarzenegger? Well, no and yeah, probably. He makes Arnie look like a bottomless reserve of emotional gravitas, which is a major feat. The Rock has no acting ability, and I mean NONE. It’s shocking that a guy could spend as much time as he does immersed in the fakery of the WWF and not pick up a few tips on producing a convincing performance. I don’t know much about his wrestling persona, but I’m quite certain that it is exactly the same as what’s up on screen in The Scorpion King. Basically, he lumbers through most scenes like an oily Tor Johnson with slightly better diction, taking a few minutes here and there to participate in a poorly choreographed fight scene. Granted, this is The Rock’s first real movie (his 10 minutes in The Mummy Returns don’t count). Maybe he’ll get better as he continues to do the scads of action movies that will unquestionably be thrown at him. At this point, though, I’d prefer the subtle charm and mannered acting of Lou Ferigno to this lummox. As far as the rest of the performances, no one makes much of an impression, save for Kelly Hu as Cassandra. Don’t get me wrong: Her character is as wooden and lifeless as everyone else’s, but Hu lucks out by being what can only be described as a total knockout.

But we can’t blame the utter badness of this movie totally on The Rock. No, there are a few more people who should be lined up and Stooge-slapped and they are, in particular order:

—Chuck Russell, the director of this whole mess. A long time ago, Russell directed Nightmare On Elm Street 3, which is widely considered to be one of the best of the series. After that, he took a long slow nosedive through Hollywood, directing such abysmal fare as Bless The Child, The Mask, and Eraser. Clearly this dude’s talents don’t lie behind the camera; it might be time to stop giving him chances. That The Scorpion King is a clunky, poorly-edited and, above all else, boring film, really stems from Russell’s lack of skill and finesse. A better director could have at least made this an entertaining popcorn film, I’m sure.

—Steven Sommers, David Hayter, and William Osborne, the screenwriters. It’s not like there’s ever been a truly well-written Summer Blockbuster, but these guys weren’t even trying. The dialogue is laughably bad, and that’s at it’s best. I spent more time cringing during this movie than I have at any other point in my entire life. It also distresses me that it took three writers to bang out this script. I would say that this is a case of too many cooks spoiling the soup, but the soup was pretty bad anyway. This is a case of too many cooks making the soup worse.

—The execs at Universal Studios who greenlighted this. To be fair, this is going to make giant sackfuls of money. The weight of the WWF fans alone should put this at the top of the box office for weeks, so for the execs, this was probably a brilliant business move. However, I include them on this list because they were the ones who gave the initial "okay" on this project. They must be rounded up and soundly chastised. Possibly with sticks.

There are so many things that bother me about this movie, it’s actually useless to continue, or we’ll be here all night. I know this is going to do booming business due to The Rock’s overwhelming and inexplicable popularity, but I can only hope that audiences will come to their senses before this hurts too many people. If my words have any weight with any of you out there, please, don’t see this movie. It really is THAT bad.

Clinton Davis


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