The first time I saw The Rock (his professional name) was about a week
I was watching the History Channel, and he was doing a promo for a
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
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
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.
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,
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
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.