Med City Movie Guy: 'Rock' is solid foundation to summer disaster flick
Maybe it's time to start taking Dwayne Johnson seriously.
Films with the actor, formerly known as "The Rock," traditionally came with a warning that his casting "may result in eye-rolls."
But since joining the "Fast and Furious" family in 2011's "Fast Five" (and allowing for the occasional boner, e.g., "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island"), the one-time piledriver has built cinematic cred.
That said, Johnson handily carries the new, thoroughly entertaining disaster flick, "San Andreas."
Surely you've heard of this geological jinx? For decades, the fault line on which the coast of California teeters has been due for a major seismological event. In fact, 1978's "Superman" played on this inevitability. Real estate speculator Lex Luthor quietly bought up tracts of worthless desert, then plotted to fire an ICBM at the fault, causing the coastal cities to slide into the Pacific and consequently skyrocket (!) the value of his new beach property.
Nothing as sinister happens here. The fault is overdue for a shift, that is settled science. What Caltech seismologist Paul Giamatti and company are trying to do is provide some warning (and some exquisite B-movie dialog: On discovering that the mother of all quakes is about to hit, an assistant asks, "Who should we call?" to which Giamatti dramatically replies after a purposeful pause, "Everyone!").
Fire department helicopter rescue pilot Ray Gaines (Johnson), meanwhile, is navigating the fallout from his fractured family. Wife Emma (Carla Gugino) is divorcing him, and daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) is torn between the two fathers. But when Blake is trapped in the carnage (or would that be "cable-carnage?") of San Francisco's destruction, Gaines comes to her rescue.
So there's not a lot to the plot. But remember, "The Poseidon Adventure" sailed to an Oscar with even less: "Boat turns up-side down, Shelly Winters swims like an eel, a handful of people escape through hull singing, 'There's got to be a morning after.'"
No, what we have here is a good old-fashioned disaster film with thrills from beginning to end, and spectacular effects that have to be experienced on the big screen — like the utter destruction of the Hoover Dam in the first act that is merely a hint of what's to come. (Oh yeah, I should probably add "spoiler alert.")
Johnson, of course, sweeps in like a white knight. First by air, then by land, finally by sea and not without cheesy moments which, by the way, are an integral component of this film's charm. But if that's the price to pay for a ride-along in a commandeered boat struggling up a cresting Tsunami under the Golden Gate Bridge dodging the massive propellers of a cargo ship and its tumbling containers … then so be it.
Med-City Movie Guy's rating: 4 Honks
Can you smell what 'The Rock' has cooked up thus far?
Not everyone can be Charles Foster Kane, but that doesn't mean Duane Johnson hasn't distinguished himself from, oh, let's say, a Sylvester Stallone or a Dolph Lundgren. Here are a few of the actor's roles that might make you raise an eyebrow:
"Be Cool" (2005) A disappointing sequel to Barry Sonnenfeld's 1995 clever crime comedy "Get Shorty." But Johnson's Elliot Wilhelm, a Samoan wannabe-actor and bodyguard to hysterical record producer Raji Lowenthal (Vince Vaughn), are reason enough to watch it.
"Fast Five" (2011), "Fast & Furious 6" (2013), and "Furious 7" (2015) Johnson does a respectable job complementing Vin Diesel's gang as a government agent first dogging them, then finding himself simpatico with their mission. High point: In the $1 billion-grossing "7," Johnson frees himself from an arm-cast by flexing his muscle. See, that's how you control healthcare costs!
"Empire State" (2013) A better than average heist film based on a true story. "The Hunger Games'" Liam Hemsworth stars as a security guard at an armored car depository who reluctantly orchestrates the inside job. Johnson is the NYPD detective on him like a bad rash.
"Hercules" (2014) Me and my 6-growler abs never got a call back, but guess who landed the role? Over the top when appropriate, it is surprisingly entertaining and if my contact at Hy-Vee can be believed, I understand Zeus himself has stopped by a few times asking when it's going to be available from Redbox. Can there be a better testimonial than that?