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Posts Tagged ‘Bernard Hill’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published April 25th 2002:

When is a prequel not a prequel? This question occurred to me while watching Chuck Russell’s The Scorpion King, which is being marketed as a spin-off from the massively profitable Mummy franchise. Set long before the rise of Imhotep, the film finds the ancient world ground beneath the iron heel of Memnon (Steven Brand), warlord of Gomorrah, who is invincible in battle thanks to his sorcerer’s prophetic powers. The inevitable alliance of rebels hires a trio of warrior-assassins to eliminate the sorcerer – but they’re betrayed and two are killed. The survivor, Mathayus (played by the Rock, who’s played by Dwayne Johnson) reaches his target but – understandably – hesitates when the sorcerer turns out to be the very glam Kelly Hu off TV’s Martial Law in a chain mail swimsuit (her role in the movie is an essentially decorative one but any criticism of this on my part would probably sound rather half-hearted). Escaping the understandably irked Memnon and acquiring the compulsory comedic sidekick (Grant Heslov) – according to the IMDB his character is actually called that! – Mathayus vows revenge on the man who killed his brothers…

And it’s rippling beefcake and alluring cheesecake all the way from this point onwards. Now I can’t stand American ‘wrestling’ and for me alarm bells were ringing from the start at the memory of how the CGI Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns was a better actor than the flesh and blood version, but Dwayne is absolutely fine here. It isn’t a tremendously deep or demanding role, which is probably just as well as Dwayne’s range as a thespian is roughly that of the desk at which I currently sit, but he looks the part, beats stuntmen up with convincing aplomb (hardly surprising seeing as that’s his day job), and delivers a one-liner better than Arnie. He’s well supported by a fairly eclectic cast including the equally muscled Michael Clarke Duncan (I particularly enjoyed the fisticuffs between the two of them) and Bernard ‘Yosser Hughes’ Hill, who actually seems to be doing his own stunts.

Speaking of Schwarzenegger, this film reminded me of his outings as Conan the Barbarian more than anything else. It’s totally unsubtle, faintly formulaic in places, and could only really be described as cutting-edge cinema inasmuch as Dwayne scimitars his way through an improbable number of goons before the proceedings are concluded. But it has something of same tongue-in-cheek style as last year’s A Knight’s Tale, which adds to its charm enormously.

However, it seems to have been edited for length fairly rigorously, to the detriment of the story (two quite major characters pop up, unexplained, having previously been left in very different circumstances). Part of the plot seemed to me to be very obviously nicked from Live and Let Die. But my biggest complaint would be that this is a Mummy spin-off in name only – a bit of a cash-in, truth be told. There’s only the vaguest possible of references to Dwayne’s ultimate destiny as a malevolent special effect, and the ending gives no clue as to how he becomes the nasty piece of work seen in the prologue to The Mummy Returns.

Taken on its own terms, though, The Scorpion King is a cheerful, rip-roaring adventure packed with energy and fun. I can smell what the Rock is cooking, and while it may be a cheesy stew, it’s still tasty stuff.

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