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'Scorpion King, The'

The Rock muscles his way through 'The Scorpion King'

Friday, April 19, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Among the DVDs that recently crossed my desk is one called "Ultimate Fights." It's a collection of film fistfights, swordfights, martial-arts fights, girlfights and other battles -- not unlike "The Scorpion King," a new movie starring The Rock. It, too, is a series of battles with all manner of weapons, such as arrows, flaming swords, lances, cobras and fists powered by biceps the size of Easter hams.

'The Scorpion King'

RATING: PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and some sensuality

STARRING: The Rock, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu

DIRECTOR: Chuck Russell

WEB SITE: www.the-scorpion-king.com



Welcome to the very loose prequel (or spinoff) to "The Mummy Returns," itself a sequel to 1999's "The Mummy," which had authentic Moroccan locations, Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and those frills known as background and character development. "The Mummy" had adventure mixed with its action, while "Scorpion King" is almost all action, all the time, with a metal-dominated soundtrack featuring Godsmack's "I Stand Alone."

The story, set 5,000 years ago, is this: A warrior named Memnon (Steven Brand) has been slaying or enslaving tribes scattered throughout the desert. He's able to do this with the assistance of a sorcerer who can envision when the enemies will be most vulnerable.

The only hope of stopping Memnon is Mathayus (The Rock), a member of the Akkadians, a tribe of assassins. He's given 20 blood rubies to kill the seer and vows, "As long as one of us still breathes, the sorcerer will die." The seer turns out not to be a man, but a sexy, scantily clad woman (Kelly Hu) who eventually joins forces with Mathayus in every sense of that phrase.

Mathayus, with jet-black hair trailing to his waist and not just abs of steel but an entire body, travels through the desert by camel. "Horses are faster, but camels are smarter," he reasons.

The Rock rarely just speaks. He quips, in that now-obligatory Arnold Schwarzenegger fashion. He tersely threatens or challenges his enemies and he turns into a virtual Superman of the Sand by walking through a curtain of flames, crushing fire ants with his chin (he's buried to his neck) and plummeting several stories onto a hard surface and getting up as if he tumbled off the sofa while watching the WWF.

"The Scorpion King," also starring Michael Clarke Duncan as an enemy-turned-ally named Balthazar, Bernard Hill as an inventor and Grant Heslov as horse thief-comic relief, builds to the usual swordsman smackdown. This was shot not in Morocco or other faraway locales but in California and Arizona. A set built for "Spartacus" doubles here as the marketplace in Gomorrah.

The Rock, whose real name is Dwayne Douglas Johnson, has an exotic look (perhaps owing to his Samoan wrestler-grandfather) and big screen presence. He's not asked to act as much as exude manly strength and master complicated stunts and fight sequences. He may still be better as a supporting player than a leading actor but this isn't exactly "A Beautiful Mind."

"Scorpion King" is a 90-minute excursion for moviegoers who like their entertainment simple (good vs. evil) and summer-like. The Rock is no Schwarzenegger but, with time and acting lessons, he could be a contender for the throne.

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