Ten Movies: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

Brian and Hemal bid farewell to the Dwaye Johnson season of Ten Movies, sharing the insights they have gleaned into the dark quotidian heart of America during this season’s journey.

More importantly, they rank the ten movies from this season and disagree very sharply on a definitive ordering of The Rock’s movies.

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcast

What did we learn this season? The Rock’s perch upon the loftiest heights of American consumer culture is substantial but shallow; a carefully-calibrated thing that traffics heavily in explosions, fisticuffs, car chases, idealized masculinity and a studied ideological vagueness.

Yet behind all that, a faintheartedness – for all the movies he makes (2.15 feature films a year; we did the math) and the untold cultural and commercial power he wields, Dwayne Johnson is deeply wary of doing anything that might cause even the slightest brow-furrowing among his extensive consumer segments.

But then again, who are we to fault him? Do the explosions, fistfights and car chases not delight us? Are we not entertained?

Whether you’re a regular listener or a first-time visitor, this is a not-to-miss episode. And if all the highbrow prattle isn’t to your liking, just skip ahead to the rankings.

Here’s what we watched this season:

Hobbs & Shaw. A high-octane and somewhat ridiculous action thrill ride where The Rock teams up with Jason Statham to fight evil and crash cars.

Rampage. The Rock fights giant monsters, but also has a giant monkey friend.

Jumanji. A bunch of teens gets transported into an evil video game, turn into action heroes and have to brave various perils to escape back to reality.

Central Intelligence. The Rock plays a weird man-child who is also somehow a merciless CIA operative and he embroils a hapless Kevin Hart in a series of tonally incoherent adventures.

Moana. A beloved animated kid’s adventure film featuring The Rock as a self-centered Polynesian demigod who helps a plucky young girl journey across a vast and perilous ocean to rescue her village.

Red Notice. A paint-by-numbers action-comedy starring The Rock, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, all laboring to outdo one another in endearing smarm.

Hercules. A cynical exercise in giving the audience nothing they might remember, or even notice, this one stars The Rock as a mighty hero who does nothing interesting.

Fast Five. Car chases! Fisticuffs! Familial camaraderie! More car chases! The Rock joins the beloved Fast & Furious franchise to give Vin Diesel on more thing to worry about.

The Scorpion King. In The Rock’s feature film debut, he plays a sword-wielding warrior in a movie that takes its cues partly from D&D and partly from 80s-era heavy metal album art.

San Andreas. When The Big One hits California, The Rock zips around in a variety of emergency vehicles trying to rescue his daughter and win the affections of his estranged ex-wife while a million buildings fall down in the background.

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