Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Chuck Russell
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Kelly Hu, Steven Brand, Grant Heslov, Bernard Hill
Heavy weight wrestler The Rock (real name Dwayne Johnson) kick starts a new action franchise with this prequel of sorts to The Mummy. The first in a proposed trilogy, The Scorpion King gives audiences the backstory of the Scorpion King, who was a minor character in Stephen Sommers’ big budget action fantasy The Mummy Returns. Apparently The Rock turned down a role in the disappointing The One to play the smaller role of the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, ultimately a wise decision.
Co-produced by Vince McMahon and the WWF franchise and the team behind the successful Mummy movies, The Scorpion King is an action fantasy reminiscent of the old fashioned Saturday afternoon matinee, a roller-coaster ride full of action, fights, thrills, cliff hanger moments, and horribly cliched dialogue, that is undeniably entertaining. Directed at a relentless pace by Chuck Russell (The Mask, etc), The Scorpion King is never in danger of taking itself too seriously.
Set some 1000 years before the Egyptians built the pyramids, The Scorpion King casts The Rock in his first major feature film role as Mathayus, an assassin hired to kill Cassandra (Kelly Hu), a fabled sorceress who is the key to power of the tyrant Memnon (new comer Steven Brand). Instead Mathayus kidnaps her and raises a rebel army who invades Memnon’s fortress city and defeat him in battle, thus restoring a temporary peace to the desert kingdom.
There are some healthy injections of humour in the plot, due mainly to a pair of hammy performances from Grant Heslov, who plays the thief Arpid, and Bernard Hill, who plays an eccentric inventor. Performances are secondary in a film of this nature, and most of the characters are little more than cardboard cutouts. The Rock’s commanding physical presence, but rather wooden, humourless performance and dry delivery of dialogue is reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first major role in Conan The Barbarian twenty years ago, and hopes are obviously high that his film career will follow a similar path.