I wrote this commentary up for my movie website, which is still currently under construction, but since it's about the Rock, I hope you wieners enjoy it now.
The Rundown on the Rock
September 29, 2003
Even before most of America had the chance to see The Rundown for themselves, the hype would lead you to believe that the Rock, multi-time World Wrestling Entertainment Champion and the self-proclaimed "Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment", is the next great action hero. Indeed, the still-reigning action god, Arnold Schwarzenegger, briefly cameos in The Rundown, urging his heir apparent to "have a good time."
Now that the dust has settled after The Rundown's opening weekend, we see that the Rock didn't quite rock the box office as expected. The Rundown opened at less than $19-million, slightly below the predicted tally and roughly half the numbers the Rock's first starring vehicle, The Scorpion King, posted in 2002.
These numbers don't seem quite fair. The Rundown is in every way a step forward from the sword and sorcery silliness of The Scorpion King. The Rundown is a good enough movie. Fun and enjoyable while it lasts, though instantly forgettable. It is thus far the best motion picture afflilated with World Wrestling Entertainment, which has had a less than stellar track record of its 'superstars' venturing onto the big screen (the Hulk Hogan oevure arguably being the most embarassing.)
By most accounts, movie audiences seem to like the Rock. Despite the eventual performance of The Rundown, the Rock has the remake of Walking Tall readying for a 2004 release before he steps behind the wheel of the Interceptor in 2005's Spy Hunter. His immediate movie career is rolling along and there is reason to believe it will only improve.
The Rock's big screen persona is being carefully crafted to suit mass audiences. Tall, handsome, well-spoken, the half-Samoan, half-African American Dwayne Johnson seems to be a more universal type of action hero for our society.
In both The Scorpion King and The Rundown, the Rock plays a noble man of few words. A fighter who would like to avoid bloodshed but will not back down if provoked. A loner with his own code of honor, and not without a sense of humor, but one he carefully guards so as not to be taken advantage of. Thus far, this seems to be who the Rock is when we pay $10 to see him in a movie theatre.
Well, that's all well and good, but see, the trouble is, that ain't the Rock.
As any fan of WWE can tell you, the Rock we know isn't really any of those things.
Sure, he's been the hero at times. But the Rock we know is a loud-mouthed, sarcastic, obnoxious, self-serving, self-aggrandizing jerk who for years had a fixation on sticking inappropriate objects up his opponents' asses.
The Rock we know refers to himself in the third person. He gave himself a bunch of self-congratulatory nicknames such as "The Great One", "The Chosen One", and the aforementioned "Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment."
The Rock we know loves the ladies and blabbers on about how much 'pie' he likes to eat (and he doesn't mean the kind baked in ovens.)
The Rock we know wears $500 shirts, rolex watches, leather pants, big stupid looking belt buckles of his logo, the Brahma Bull, and had recently taken to carrying around a guitar and regaling us with his live 'Rock concerts.'
The Rock we know is a bully who likes to humiliate the announcers seeking only to do their jobs and interview him.
The Rock we know isn't a bad ass. He can be a fantastic performer in the ring, and his championship resume is impressive to say the least, but for as many matches the Rock has won, he has also gotten his ass kicked. A lot. In fact, the Rock is kind of a pussy. When he's a heel (bad guy), the Rock runs from fights and takes the cheap victory. Even when he is a babyface (good guy), the Rock rarely whips his opponents' asses (despite how he tells it.)
The Rock we know is very funny. Hand the Rock a microphone and he will unleash a series of clever ad libbed insults and catchphrases that could make a grown man cry. He is a great talker; in fact, as his WWE peer Triple H once stated to MTV, the Rock hardly ever shuts up.
That, in a nutshell, is the Rock we know. We being his WWE fans, the core audience Hollywood hopes will follow our hero to the movie theatres since he no longer performs for us on Monday and Thursday nights.
Obviously, we can't have the Rock in the movies as we know him and love him in WWE. Physically, it's difficult to portray the Rock as vulnerable when he is clearly bigger than most actors. Yet, it's some of those aspects of the Rock's wrestling persona, the funny, obnoxious, motormouth People's Champion, that we truly want to see integrated into his movie roles.
Being a stoic, monosllyabic action hero works for Arnold. He's got that goofy accent. The Rock is not Arnold. The Rock speaks a mile a minute and can ad lib insults better than most screenwriters can write 'clever dialogue.'
Arnold has to be a mountain of immovable muscle, armed with guns the size of small children. The Rock, when in action, moves lightning fast, but is more vulnerable, more human. You can hurt the Rock, you can make him bleed. (A chair to the head usually works.) The Rundown captured this well. Arnold got hurt a lot too, but you never feel for him as much as you could for the Rock.
Perhaps if the Rock is truly to succeed Arnold as the next great action star, he should do the same thing that rocketed Schwarzenegger to the stratosphere: hook up with a great action director and play a villain. Arnold became a megastar as the Terminator. The Rock could become the same type of megastar, but my bet is he won't do it as a hero.
More heroic roles will no doubt be in the Rock's future, but someone in Hollywood should craft a villainous role for the Rock that would really let him cut loose and play to his strengths as a character: his humor, his cockiness, and his natural charisma. Heroic roles only hold the Rock back. We've yet to see the Rock that can hold the "millions and millions of the Rock's fans" in thrall with just the raising of the 'People's Eyebrow' on the big screen. But that's the Rock we're really waiting for.
Trust me, if all you know of the Rock is from The Scorpion King and The Rundown, you ain't seen nothing yet. It's what we WWE fans have known about the Rock for years: when he's good, he's good, but when he's bad, he's even better.
If you smell what the Rock is cookin'.
"Strong words. Strong words from a strange man." - Kent Brockman
And I completely agree; as good as he was in The Rundown (and I thought The Rock was very good in his role; the critics were pretty dead-on in their assessment), The Rock will really get people's attention when/if he can play the smart-ass, insult-spouting heel. He'll be given the opportunity soon enough; all his agent has to do is show some clips of Rock on Raw or SmackDown this past February and March. And that's the role I think he'll excel at.
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One thing about The Scorpion King is that it was a spinoff from the successful Mummy Series, which is probably part of the reason it had a bigger opening weekend.
I think The Rundown will have much better longevity then Scorpion King based on word of mouth and praise by the movie critics.
In time, The Rock will get more diverse roles. The Rundown was his first chance to show his comedic side and he succeeded. It'll take awhile but with each movie he'll show producers that he's not a stereotypical wrestler. He's very versatile and from all accounts, he works extremely hard at his craft. He doesn't just go in there looking for a cash grab. He wants to be an actor and he's pouring all of himself into it, just like he gave all he had to wrestling.
After he finishes his current projects, I'd like to see The Rock take a somewhat smaller role in a bigger film where he can play an arrogant jerk like heel Rock.
Of course, it should also be mentioned that Schwarzenegger played one other major villain role besides the Terminator Mr. Freeze. And THAT tanked for him.
But outside of that, Ill agree that Rock should find some sort of villain role that would let him play towards his over-the-top ranting-and-raving strengths. Something in the Spider-Man or X-Men franchises, maybe? Rock would actually make a rather good Venom, come to mention it. Just for the love of god, let him have the sense to stay away from the DC Comics franchises like Batman or Superman those films are doomed.
Originally posted by PhantomJust for the love of god, let him have the sense to stay away from the DC Comics franchises like Batman or Superman those films are doomed.
Speak for yourself- Superman II and the 1989 Batman movie are better than any Marvel film so far.
As for Rocky- I thought I read somewhere that the Rundown opened at #1, so it certainly isn't anything to be ashamed of. I agree that the Rock would make a great movie villain, but I can't think of any franchise roles he could play. I don't think he'd make a good Venom- Eddie Brock is too vicious and psychotic for the Rock. He needs a more playful role.
"I do have a degree in electrical engineering... from almost 20 years ago. Punchcard systems were just becoming obsolete, we had rotary phones in the dorms, and a modem was still a gizmo the size of a shoebox into which you squooshed the phone receiver itself. In short, we lived like animals.
The instant obsolesence is why I became a writer. The rate of punctuation in a sentence doesn't double every 18 friggin' months, and you never have some 22-year-old looming over your shoulder, shaking his head, saying "dude... you're still using adverbs...?"
Call me crazy, but I think the Rock would make a great Superman (this is partially based on one of his SNL skits, but hey). Not sure how he'd fare as Clark Kent, however.
"When this bogus term alternative rock was being thrown at every '70s retro rehash folk group, we were challenging people to new sonic ideas. If some little snotty anarchist with an Apple Mac and an attitude thinks he invented dance music and the big rock group is coming into his territory, [that's] ridiculous." - Bono, 1997
I caught The Rundown on Saturday afternoon, and was quite entertained by the Rock's performance. I was almost disappointed a bit by his role from a comedy perspective, but it's hard to rate someone else properly in a comedic role when you got Sean William Scott on the same screen. Fun movie, though. I don't think it's as great as my local paper gave it (****1/2), but there wasn't a part in the movie where I didn't feel bored (unlike Underworld) and all four major characters blended well with each other.
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