Making the leap from the wrestling ring onto the silver-screen is pretty popular move for some performers to try these days, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is pretty much the guy that has done it the best. He’s not going to try and win any Oscars or do thought-provoking dramas, but fun action is his forte and there are a few memorable entries in his surprisingly long list of movies.
While Faster might sound like a Fast & the Furious spin-off, it’s actually one of The Rock’s earlier films from 2010. Playing a man out for revenge by hunting down those who’ve wronged him, Faster plays out like a John Wick-esque vengeance thriller. It’s incredibly entertaining, has some great characters and fight-sequences, and Johnson’s stone-cold attitude keeps the tension throughout the entire romp.
The sports movie (specifically American football films like Remember the Titans and Any Given Sunday) genre was quite popular once, and The Rock gave it a shot with 2006’s Gridiron Gang. While it’s not the action-packed, fast-paced popcorn flick he’s now known for, Dwayne Johnson gave a nuanced and relatable performance as Sean Porter, a football coach at a youth detention centre. The story is based on the true events of Sean Porter starting a football league at the centre to help at-risk teens, and although the genre is well-worn, Gridiron Gang does a good job of avoiding tropes or seeming too obviously sappy, but still tells a great story that is aided by a genuine and charismatic performance from Johnson himself.
The Other Guys
Usually The Rock is front and centre of the movies he’s in, being the main draw to put people in seats on opening night. Here he’s part of another slapstick Will Ferrell project (one of his more successful recent projects, in fact) where he adds gut-wrenching humour to counter the often bumbling and inept characters portrayed by Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. The Rock teams up with Samuel L. Jackson (is there a better cop partner to have?) and they do an amazing job of lampooning all the 80s/90s buddy cop movies, playing off all the popular tropes and satirising the genre brilliantly. This proves that the Rock doesn’t have to be the centrepiece of a movie to contribute a hilarious performance.
The Scorpion King
The early 2000’s Mummy franchise didn’t have a particularly successful sequel, but where the sequel may have been a bit average, it did give The Rock an opportunity for a spinoff in which he played the eponymous Scorpion King. The movie wasn’t particularly well received, but The Rock’s portrayal of the Scorpion King Mathayus (plus his sorceress sidekick played by Kelly Hu) kind of epitomises this era’s approach to action adventure movies and holds more nostalgic value than true film worth. The Scorpion King is also one of his first projects that cemented him as an action star, and paved the way for him to move onto bigger and better things.
The Fast and the Furious franchise is heaven-knows-how-many movies deep, and after hitting a bit of a stale patch after the fourth entry, the series managed a bit of a miraculous revival with the fifth. It’s one of the best of the ‘modern’ Fast movies, and coincidentally, this resurgence in an ailing franchise occurred when The Rock’s Agent Luke Hobbs joined up and became a mainstay of the cast. His participation in the franchise and the huge numbers it continuously pulls at the box office serve as a testament to him mastering this action/adventure niche and using a combination of his charisma and tough-guy persona to create a fan-favourite character. No doubt this franchise is what took him from just being ‘that action guy’ to a blockbuster guarantee in the eyes of movie executives.
The Rundown might seem like an odd choice, since it was earlier in The Rock’s career and before he hit his massive Fast and Furious heyday fame, but it’s definitely one of Johnson’s best projects. While the plot and script don’t really offer anything too unique when it comes to buddy action/comedies, the combination of The Rock and Sean William Scott’s comedic chemistry, plus the inclusion of Christopher Walken’s eccentric and whacky villain makes it one of the best in that genre. It hits all the usual beats an action comedy should, but it hits them with enthusiasm and that’s in no small part down to The Rock’s ability to play a combination of a relatable, but larger-than-life character at the same time.