Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Heath Holland On...The Rock Paradox

by Heath Holland
I smell what The Rock is cookin’.

This past weekend saw the release of Moana, the latest Disney animated movie and also the newest cinematic vehicle to feature Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Oh, I know he dropped the wrestling moniker “The Rock” from his name years ago in pursuit of his acting career outside of the ring, but he’ll always be a pro “rassler” first and foremost to me and a Hollywood movie star second. His frequent returns to Vince McMahon’s WWE and annual Wrestlemania appearances don’t distance himself from his in-ring origin story, nor does the fact that, when you look him up on IMDB, it first says “Known For Monday Night Raw.” At any rate, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to watch Moana, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it because Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is in it. It doesn’t matter if the movie turns out to be any good; I’ll enjoy it because of his involvement.

It’s kind of a weird thing to realize, that you are so smitten with a particular actor that it doesn’t really matter to you if their movies are any good or not. Yet I am with my affection for Mr. Johnson. If I’m being honest, I must confess that I think most of his movies fall a bit short of the mark, but this somehow doesn’t bother me. A quick glance at his Hollywood resume reveals that a staggering amount of his movies fail in terms of craft, story, production, you know, the kinds of things that we as movie fans value and champion above pretty much everything else. I DON’T CARE. This is The Rock Paradox. We have a man who makes multiple movies every year, usually starring in the lead, and usually being the best thing about the production. Mediocre movies, awesome star. The Rock Paradox.
I’m not much of a Black Friday guy. I’ve only gotten up in the middle of the night to visit stores for “doorbusters” a couple of times in my entire life and it was a miserable experience that I won’t soon repeat. Now that sales start on Thanksgiving afternoon, I still don’t go out, choosing turkey leftovers and another slice of pumpkin pie over a 60-inch TV at a reduced price. However, I did get out this year on the morning of Black Friday (after sleeping until 8 am) to hit my local Target with the specific goal of snagging a 6 dollar Blu-ray of Central Intelligence, starring Kevin Hart and THE MAN, Dwayne Johnson. That Blu-ray was literally the reason I got out of my PJs after breakfast to hit a retail store. Why did I do this? It’s a mediocre movie that even its biggest supporters can only summon the enthusiasm to call FINE, but I had to add it to my collection. WHY? Because of The Rock Paradox. Mr. Johnson makes some very good movies. I love the Fast and Furious series, and his presence has only made the last few installments even more entertaining and given them a higher pedigree. The Rundown is a fantastic mid-budget action movie in the style of the action flicks that I grew up with. I appreciate The Scorpion King for being a Conan-lite movie when we needed it the most. I like when he stretches himself, as in Be Cool and Southland Tales. But Dwayne Johnson also makes an awful lot of bad movies. Movies like Doom and Get Smart (I bet your forgot about that one) and the Race to Witch Mountain remake that no one asked for and even fewer people actually watched. He was the title character in Tooth Fairy a mere six years ago and was in the absolutely forgettable Empire State in 2013. I watched that movie and I can’t tell you a single thing about it. Movie fandom gave a collective sigh of apathy over G.I. Joe: Retaliation despite my insistence that it was a lot of fun. He even made an appearance in Jem and the Holograms! For every really good movie that stars Dwayne Johnson, there are at least two bad ones. And I still don’t care.
Why is this exactly? Maybe it’s because everyone he’s ever worked with says that he’s the hardest-working, most genuine person they’ve ever met. Maybe it’s because he treats everyone like they matter, whether they’re a co-star or the guy working the craft services table. Maybe it’s because he wakes up at 4 am every single day to start his workout and has been known to appear on a morning show in New York, then an awards show in Los Angeles later that same day. He’s tremendously disciplined and even has an IOS app called “The Rock Clock” to help everyone else do the same thing he does. It’s not a secret; it’s simply hard work. Just like Tom Cruise shows up for every movie that he’s cast in with visible determination (and *coughMADNESScough*) in his eyes, Dwayne Johnson seems to give every single project 100% of his effort, regardless of whether it’s a blatant cash grab or the next big thing. Unlike Tom Cruise, though, Dwayne Johnson seems to be far less discriminating when it comes to choosing roles, often appearing in three or even four movies in a single year. He’s supplemented his role discernment with passion and gusto (yes, I said gusto), and seems to have reaped the reward for his efforts. Maybe this is why I connect to him and find myself watching, appreciating, revisiting, and even owning movies that I otherwise wouldn’t deign to give my valuable time. It certainly has nothing to do with his ridiculous good looks and muscles that look like mountains. No, certainly not.

In a movie marketplace that’s populated by a whole lot of everymen, Dwayne Johnson is a rare creature. He’s someone that I’m not sure we’ve EVER seen the likes of (an imposing tractor trailer of a human being that’s hauling a load of charisma), and that’s what makes watching him so electric and so fun to watch, even in…ESPECIALLY IN…movies that just aren’t all that good. It’s The Rock Paradox. I can’t wait for 2017 so I can watch San Andreas 2 and Baywatch.


  1. so... when are you doing a review of southland tales?

    i watched Be Cool this week. i think it's the movie, when it came out, that made me like and aware of The Rock because it looked like he had fun with it

  2. Jumanji's also coming in 2017. And I can't get past the fact that The Rock's character in it is called Dr. Smolder Bravestone (other characters include Moose Finbar and Ruby Roundhouse). I believe this is the first time ever that mere character names have made me excited about a movie.

  3. Thank you for this, Heath. The Rock elevates everything he's in.

    The Rock Clock is also worth downloading. Some of his daily messages are amazing.

  4. "The only person more jacked than The Rock is Future The Rock."
    -Doug, F This Movie

    I've quoted this frequently as it's one of my favourite Dougisms - it's funny and true! I'm totally with you on The Rock, Heath - I'm not completely up on his filmography but I'm always glad to see him and I don't think he's ever done a bad job. My enjoyment of Vin Diesel in the Fast and Furious movies approaches the ironic; with Paul Walker gone, it's going to be up to The Rock to keep my love of the franchise genuine.