I’m confident that most people agree
with me when I proclaim that action flicks ought to rouse viewers.
A strong fight scene or a well-crafted destructive rampage should
have the force to transform an idle, passive moviegoer into a
raucous spectator, a passionate supporter of the hero and his
cause.

Julie Pannuto

I suppose that I carry this fanaticism, though, to another
level: I derive a sort of youthful, childish bliss from watching
the finest big screen, muscle-bound meatheads run amuck. Actually,
I don’t derive it from watching most meatheads … I
derive it from watching Dwayne Johnson, better known as The
Rock.

The Rock, to be brutally candid, is contemporary cinema’s
finest action star, and if he continues the trend he’s begun,
he will very soon redefine the role of the macho-male lead. Since
he’s now relegated wrestling on his personal agenda, I
wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to say that his ascension to
the throne of action king is soon to materialize.

How, though, can I say that after only two movies (“The
Scorpion King” will not be considered in this discussion),
The Rock is girded for battle with action’s greatest leading
men? Primarily because his work fills me with a sort of boyish glee
that is rare.

Boyish glee, eh? Yes, boyish glee. As I sat through
“Walking Tall” this past weekend, I was trembling
joyously like a child having the time of his life at his favorite
amusement park. It was as though I was waiting in a line to ride a
roller coaster, eagerly recounting my past thrills and anticipating
even more that were yet to come.

And this superfluity of youthful joy came, mind you, from
nothing more than a finely chiseled hero wielding a two-by-four.
The Rock doesn’t require an epic, apocalyptic story and the
role of mankind’s savior’s bodyguard to succeed, as
Arnold Schwarzenegger did. Nor does he require a shiny M-60 and a
bottomless ammunition cache, as Sylvester Stallone did. No, The
Rock doesn’t require any such buttressing from elaborate
plots or gleaming guns; he lays the smack down himself.

His violent outbursts are perhaps even more enjoyable because
they are so wonderfully uncomplicated. In the first major showdown
in “Walking Tall,” for instance, The Rock’s
character, angered by the shady dealings of employees of the local
casino, drives purposefully to the house of gambling, brandishes
his cedar stick and, in a matter of minutes, reconfigures countless
slot machines and at least seven men’s jaws. He
doesn’t, during this havoc-wreaking, beat around the bush:
His glare and his stick do the talking.

But it’s not solely The Rock’s dexterity with a
piece of wood that makes him a budding star. Without a doubt, his
charisma and shining personality rival his figure and physical
skills. I’ve never before watched a man of action who
articulates so well and charms so effortlessly. The Rock is a
natural romantic; it’s just hard for some to see this, as
it’s well-hidden by layers of finely tuned muscle fiber.

The most pertinent issue now for The Rock is role choice. To sit
atop the jeweled thrown of action stardom, he’ll need to be
wise with his part selection. From what I’ve seen thus far, I
can offer this simple piece of advice: Only accept roles that
don’t require significant alterations of your personality or
physical appearance.

I said I wouldn’t mention “The Scorpion King,”
but it’s definitely appropriate support for my words of
wisdom. In short, The Rock has no business playing a mythical king
in ancient Egyptian times. He’s great not because he can
easily transform into another person for the sake of a film. No one
in his right mind should want to see The Rock play a part that
requires actual character acting; that can be left to clowns like
Stallone and Schwarzenegger who need fascinating roles to thrive.
The Rock should, rather, accept only roles that allow his untainted
self to emerge — roles that let The Rock be The Rock.

So it seems that The Rock can survive, nay, succeed, with
nothing more than his trademark swagger and a piece of crudely
fashioned lumber. His talent as an action superstar speaks loudly
and clearly for itself. Hopefully, directors and screenwriters can
see his simple brilliance as vividly as I can, so that we can all
continue to smell, and genuinely savor, what The Rock is
cooking.

 

— Zach’s man-love for The Rock is seriously
scaring us all here at the Daily. Scold him at
“mailto:mabeez@umich.edu”>mabeez@umich.edu.

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