In my last post I bemoaned the fact that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, after being personally handed the keys to Arnold's throne, has starred in exactly two action movies since 2003's extremely promising The Rundown: 2005's shitty Doom and 2010's mediocre Faster. And while, to quote Jonah Hill in Superbad, I know I talk a lot of shit, I wanted to actually put my money where my mouth is this time and name ten action movies since 2003 that The Rock would have been perfect for. Most of these movies aren't particularly good — a few border on awful — and with one exception none are particularly serious in tone, but that's exactly along the lines of Arnold's 80s and 90s output: generic, comforting action crap interspersed with a few nuggets of gold. These are in no particular order other than grouping them by whether The Rock should have been the lead, a supporting character, or the villain.
— As Protagonist —
Replacing who? Martin Henderson as Cary Ford.
Reasoning being? While Torque is already one of the most delightfully absurd movies ever made, perfectly straddling the line between Fast and the Furious knockoff and Fast and the Furious parody, The Rock would have effortlessly one-upped Henderson's competent but fairly flat line readings and given it 10-15% more zest still.
Replacing who? John Cena as John Triton.
Reasoning being? Everything about The Marine screams 80s action, with its uber-masculine hero with an uber-masculine name chasing and killing bad guys who have kidnapped his wife, but Cena just doesn't have that immediate charisma that makes a watchable 80s action star. This is probably the single film on the list I'm most positive would be instantly and drastically improved for the swap. (Same goes for 2009's 12 Rounds, but I didn't want to blow two slots on John Cena flicks.)
Replacing who? Jamie Foxx as Special Agent Ronald Fleury.
Reasoning being? This may be the most controversial of the list, seeing as The Kingdom is an utterly straight-faced post-9/11 drama about war and terrorism in the Middle East, but I see no reason why the star of Booty Call anchoring such a film is all well and good while The Scorpion King suddenly puts a man out of the running. Not to mention that The Kingdom is from the very same director of The Rundown, Peter Berg, who definitely needed a second go-round with Dwayne Johnson. I believe he could have pulled it off engagingly.
Replacing who? Gerard Butler as Kable.
Reasoning being? Gamer is an action movie where this happens when the hero finally meets the villain face-to-face. Thus I think it needed a star with a little more spark and humor than Gerard Butler, an actor who has only really served 300 and maybe Law Abiding Citizen for the better.
Replacing who? Jason Statham as Jensen Ames.
Reasoning being? Now don't get the wrong impression — I loves me some Statham, which is why you won't be finding either Crank or any of the Transporters on this list. But everything about Death Race is just so goddamned raw and American that I'm not sure it was best served by the inherent classiness of Statham and his British accent. It needed someone less sleek and more hulking, someone less a viper and more a rottweiler.
— Supporting Cast —
Replacing who? Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare.
Reasoning being? Replace Robert De Niro? What fucking blasphemy is this, especially in the best movie on this list by a hundred miles? Well, I'm not here to deny that De Niro is one of the greatest actors of all time, but he's also pretty humorless (watch his appearances on any talk show to confirm this) and was just a little shaky and awkward as the flamboyantly gay Captain Shakespeare. We know from the lousy Be Cool that The Rock has no qualms about going gay, so maybe he should have saved that secret comedic weapon for a movie that was actually, you know, funny.
Replacing who? Pretty much any of the men except for Jeremy Piven, Jason Bateman, Matthew Fox, or Ben Affleck, really. Just to be vindictive let's say Martin Henderson yet again.
Reasoning being? Smokin' Aces is a bizarre, nasty, funny piece of work that I don't even have that much to say about other than that I think The Rock could have fit perfectly into its huge, goofy ensemble.
G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA
Replacing who? Any of the male good guys other than Channing Tatum (somehow a plasticky action figure protagonist serves this franchise well) or Ray Park as Snake Eyes.
Reasoning being? I can't believe they didn't think of this one themselves. The Rock already looks like a goddamned G.I. Joe character, why on earth didn't they make him one? Amidst one of the most dull and lifeless casts to hit the big screen in years (outside of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hilarious Cobra Commander), The Rock could have invited us to actually enjoy scenes with our supposed heroes.
— As Villain —
Replacing who? Any of the three main villains; Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, or Jean Reno.
Reasoning being? None of the three villains did a bad job by any means, but they were all just sort of there, delivering their lines and hitting their marks (and hamming it up a little in Fishburne's case). The Rock's imposing presence and physicality would have amped up the tension a few notches for our hero.
SNAKES ON A PLANE
Replacing who? Byron Lawson as Eddie Kim.
Reasoning being? Because, with all due respect to who I'm sure is a perfectly nice guy, who the fuck outside of Mr. and Mrs. Lawson knows who Byron Lawson is? This legendarily absurd and goofy film needed a bad guy who could wink at the screen without openly breaking the fourth wall with the same expertise as its hero Samuel L. Jackson, and that man should have been Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.