The Scorpion King
review by Gregory Avery, 19 April 2001

Ultimately, The Scorpion King did not turn out to be as agonizing an experience as I feared it would after having a look at the opening sequences, but I still couldn't wait to get outta there when the end credits came up.

This is more video-game moviemaking, with constant moving about, whether or not there's any intention or meaning to it, punctuated every two minutes (you can set your watch by it) by someone getting whapped in the chops. This thwacking-whacking style of filmmaking, unencumbered by the impediment of character or story, can get awfully tiresome after a while, especially when it is artless in the extreme.

The movie has World Wrestling Federation star The Rock emerging (or, rather, re-emerging: he was introduced during the very early parts of last year's The Mummy Returns, at which time this feature film was already in the first stages of production) out of the ancient Egyptian desert to take on a no-goodnik who is presiding over no less than the pre-boom-boom city of Gomorrah. The Rock looks very fit and not ominously muscled, so that, at one point, he shoots somebody with an arrow that he has just pulled out of his own back (a feat that some of us, who have just been subjected to back surgery and tests such as disc-o-graphs, would find hard to duplicate at home). The movie is fitted out with such standard accessories as a snide villain with a British accent (Steven Brand, who looks like a dyspeptic Russell Crowe), a chirping comic sidekick (Grant Heslov) who dispenses such anachronistic laugh-getters as, "They got the city sealed up tighter than a crab's buttocks!" (give us a break, dear), a kooky scientist (Bernard Hill), a plucky tagalong boy, and a female interest (Kelly Hu) who, while she's pleasing to the eye, looks like she just came out of the end of an airbrush (well, that's the way she's presented, here).

Michael Clarke Duncan turns out to be the best thing in the picture, although I would like to see him doing something other than jabbing and hacking at people with various spheres and swords. The Rock is more personable in his debut leading role, here, than Arnold Schwarzenegger was in Conan the Barbarian (the comparison is inevitable) -- he's presented as an icon, but what's supposed to make him iconoclastic is not, I'm afraid, anything in the picture itself, but what he brings with him from his W.W.F. appearances. Many of his key scenes in the film are underscored by electric guitar stings and wails, just like in a W.W.F. televised bout. The movie treats him as nothing more than an action toy -- you set him in motion, and he clobbers everything in sight. While he's expressed interest, off-screen, in genuinely trying to do a good job in the acting profession, it remains to be seen another day as to whether he'll turn into a star, an actor, or whatever.

Directed by:
Chuck Russell

Starring:
The Rock
Steven Brand
Kelly Hu
Grant Heslov
Michael Clarke Duncan.

Written by:
Stephen Sommers
William Osborne
David Hayter

Rated:
PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned
Some material may not
be appropriate for
children under 13.

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