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"The Scorpion King"

Directed by Chuck Russell.
Written by Stephen Sommers, William Osborne and David Hayter. 
Starring The Rock, Michael Clarke Duncan and Kelly Hu.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  4/18/02 


My friend Max is a movie critic here in San Francisco, so he invited me along to check out the Monday premiere of the new flick "The Scorpion King", starring wrestling star The Rock.

In an interesting twist of fate, my friend Gordon called me on Monday and left a message for me telling me these simple words:

"Justin, 'The Scorpion King' comes out on Friday...and, you WILL be giving this film an Opening Weekend rating when you review it.  It stars The Rock, and should be an Opening Weekend.  If you don't, I will fly out to San Francisco and, well, kill you."

All I said to him when I called him the next day was that I respected his thoughts and that I will hold judgment until I send out the review on Friday morning.  Sadly, "The Scorpion King" was not worthy of the Opening Weekend rating.  Or the $9.00 Show.  Or the Matinee.

"The Scorpion King" is a prequel to the events of "The Mummy", the shitty Brendan Fraser "movie" that spawned an equally bad sequel, "The Mummy Returns."  In that sequel, we are given a glimpse of the character that The Rock plays in "The Scorpion King", an assassin-turned-king that is trained in the deadly arts, blah blah blah.  In "The Scorpion King", The Rock plays Mathayus, one of the last of the Arcadians, the best assassins in the world until they are wiped out by neighboring forces.  After he and some partners are paid to take down the sorceress of The Bad Guy (mulleted Steven Brand), Mathayus realizes some stuff that doesn't make much sense.  Luckily, the sorceress (hot Kelly Hu) is worth the trip and makes Mathayus learn something about his inner self.

Whatever.  Here's what you should know:  The Rock isn't awful--not Mariah Carey-awful.  But, he is pretty bad.  He seems caught somewhere in-between a bad, bad script (partially written by David Hayter, the voice of Solid Snake in the PS2 game "Metal Gear Solid 2"), too much CGI (damn near half the movie seems like it was shot in front of a blue screen), and too much mediocre talent around him (this is Brand's first film; Hu can't act so much as sashay).  I hate to say this...but, in terms of leading performance quality, Britney beats The Rock in Round 1.  My God, did I just say that???

What's even worse about this was how many many fucking films..."The Scorpion King" rips off.  Max and I, collectively, have probably seen every action film of the last 20 years.  So, as scenes are gratuitously ripped off (some as obvious as "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" or "Rambo: First Blood Part II", some as subtlely as "The Goonies" or "Beastmaster"), Max and I are yelling out each one in succession.  To Max's credit, he nailed "Flash Gordon" in one scene late in the film; I shook Max's hand later for getting that one right.  I mean, right down to the cinematography, this film just feels stolen.  Director Chuck Russell even plucks one of the good guys from "Gladiator" to help rip off that film.  Oh, did I mention that even certain movements are stolen from "Judge Dredd", even featuring buddy talk between The Rock and a guy that is footstep-for-footstep playing Rob Schneider's weakling sidekick from that Sly Stallone disaster?

The action is not bad, and for a PG-13 this film has a lot of death.  And, there are bountiful women that fawn over The Rock whenever he is on-screen.  But, that is all that redeems it.  Somewhere during the editing process, it feels like staffers just went to sleep; in one scene, Hu's sorceress is *clearly* seen weaponless, then a second later is seen brandishing a knife in a fight scene.  Not giving The Rock any signature lines?  That just seems criminal; if he had broke out even one WWF moment (not that I would recognize it, since I don't watch wrestling), he would have had me.  You will even note how bad of a kisser the guy is; one wonders if his wife was sitting just off-camera saying "Don't you dare!!"  And, don't even get me started on Michael Clarke Duncan; every actor is allowed a puff piece, but Duncan has followed his Oscar-nominated turn in "The Green Mile"--which, even I will admit is a little fluky, but still--by starring in "The Whole Nine Yards", "See Spot Run", and this shit.  C'mon!

Personally, I hope that The Rock uses this box-office success ("The Scorpion King" will open huge this weekend; judging from the crowd at the premiere, you might consider buying tix online if you are going to see it this weekend) to parlay it into something critically more beneficial.  You can feel charisma just waiting to get out, if only the role is right.  Buddy cop films, here comes The Rock!!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09