Eric D. Snider

The Scorpion King

The question isn't whether "The Scorpion King" is bad, because of course it is. The question is whether it's the enjoyable kind of bad, or the tedious kind. For me, it's the latter.

There are battles, yes, but most of the hand-to-hand combat suspiciously resembles the sort of thing you see in professional wrestling -- which you can watch for free, and in the comfort of your own home. There are no witty lines of dialogue or interesting plot twists; instead, everything occurs in a depressingly predictable manner, with no imagination or style. In the genre of movies about swarthy men killing each other, it is passable.

Wrestling star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays the Scorpion King, who at this point in his career is merely a hired assassin named Mathayus. At some point, he will become the Scorpion King -- and evil, too, you will recall -- and torment Brendan Fraser in "The Mummy Returns."

Anyway, for now, he has been hired to kill an evil king named Memnon (Steven Brand). When Memnon kills his brother, that makes it personal. Mathayus is saddled with a comedic sidekick (Grant Heslov) who, it probably goes without saying, is not funny. The two of them head for Memnon's camp, meanwhile meeting up with Memnon's sorceress, Cassandra (Kelly Hu), who is hot indeed.

There's also a rival of Mathayus who becomes his ally. His name is Balthazar, he is played by Michael Clarke Duncan, and he looks like he has caterpillars glued to his face. Perhaps this was a coming-of-age ritual in those days.

The Rock is a surprisingly bad actor, even in a role that doesn't require much acting. He never looks like a man who is angry, surprised, determined, or whatever. He looks like a man who is PRETENDING to be angry, surprised, etc. Even his facial expressions ring false; his actual dialogue sounds even faker.

It's an unbelievably stupid film, though occasionally fun enough to make you forget its absurdity. So intent is it on being a generic action film that someone in it actually invents gunpowder, just to ensure there's an explosion. What would a summer blockbuster be without stuff blowin' up?

Grade: D

Rated PG-13, abundant combat violence, some partial nudity and mild sexuality

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