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Reel critics

Dennis Piszkiewicz

The first time I saw The Rock (his professional name) was about a week

ago.

I was watching the History Channel, and he was doing a promo for a

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program the channel had coming up called “The Real Scorpion King.”

As The Rock, a wrestler turned actor, walked through a movie set, he

explained that he was not really in ancient Egypt but on a Hollywood back

lot where he had made the movie “The Scorpion King.” Then he invited me

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to watch the History Channel’s documentary on “The Real Scorpion King,”

the man who created a unified kingdom in Egypt to become the first

Pharaoh and, over five millennia later, the namesake for the movie. The

Scorpion King, The Rock said, was incredibly good looking and cool, just

like him.

The Rock’s faux conceit hooked me. This guy had both menace and a

sense of humor. He might be the new Schwarzenegger. Saturday afternoon I

drove out to the gigaplex, got my bucket of popcorn and took in the show.

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Despite the exotic setting in a time just before the beginning of

written history, the story is familiar. A vicious tyrant named Memnon and

his armies, with the guidance of Memnon’s sorceress -- more accurately an

oracle -- are conquering the world. The rulers of the last free tribes,

knowing that Memnon’s successes come from his sorceress’s ability to see

into the future, agree to hire an assassin to kill her.

The assassin, named Mathayas, played by The Rock, takes on the job;

and with an efficiency found only in fiction, he finds the Sorceress,

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played by Kelly Hu, in the tyrant Memnon’s fortress-palace. The Sorceress

is not some withered old crone who Mathayas would have hacked to pieces

without a second thought, but a deliciously exotic young woman who is

Memnon’s prisoner.

Any adolescent could write the rest of the story line from here, but

it does not matter. The film is about action. It Rocks and rolls for an

hour and a half with swinging clubs, flying arrows and flashing swords.

Armies are slaughtered, villains are defeated, and righteousness -- or

something close to it -- triumphs.

But what can we say about The Rock, who developed his acting skills in

the wrestling ring? He lives up to the demands of the script, which

require him to be more an action hero than an actor. Bernard Hill as

Memnon is a sneering, sleazy villain. He is easy to hate. Kelly Hu as the

Sorceress is memorable mostly for her minimalist costuming. Michael

Clarke Duncan delivers an exuberant performance as Balthazar, a leader of

one of the free tribes who is at first Mathayas’s rival, then his ally.

Everybody on screen seemed to be having a good time, and so did I; but

if you go to see “The Scorpion King” do not expect to give it any thought

after the final credits roll.


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