He may seem like nothing more than muscles and machismo, but this former WWE superstar is on path to be an equally popular player in feature films.
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5. The Other Guys
If we film critics could be granted one wish, many would choose to see a full blown prequel to this otherwise hilarious Will Ferrell/Mark Walhberg buddy comedy, specifically one dealing with the super-cops alluded to in the film's title. Indeed, Johnson and his partner in deranged, over the top derring-do is none other than Samuel L. Jackson, and until their exit early on in Act One, we hang on every bad action movie cliche they indulge in. In fact, their presence is so powerful that we keep hoping they will show up at some point during the finale, but we never get the satisfaction. Too bad.
This is perhaps the most unusual movie in Johnson's oeuvre, and, yes, we are counting the title coming in at number three on this list. Our hero plays a man out for revenge. He is chased by a crooked cop with a heroin problem and a hitman who has delusions of personal grandeur. Turns out, Johnson is a man whose father arranged to have him and his half-brother killed, and after surviving the "hit", he plans on tying up all the loose ends. It's all very existential and surreal, like Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive without Ryan Gosling and the weird synth-pop soundtrack. A hidden gem, this one.
3. Southland Tales
After the cult success of Donnie Darko, writer/director Richard Kelly launched this surreal sci-fi mindfuck centering on a group of individuals living in a dystopian future. A nuclear attack has spawned World War III, and for the residents of the title area (what used to be Los Angeles), life is chaos. Johnson is a man named Boxer Santaros, who is battling amnesia. Of course, this means he has another identity, as well as a career that turns Johnson's role into something quite meta. The most important thing is how good he is here. While some critics have called his performance "mannered", it matches perfectly with what Kelly, and the character, have in mind.
2. Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7
Some audience members don't want to see Johnson broaden his horizons. For them, there is nothing better than watching the former WWE idol make mincemeat out of the enemy, his body overinflated and amped to the max, testosterone pumping through every 'roid rage moment of his maximized destruction. As Luke Hobbs, the government agent in charge of keeping Vin Diesel and his "family" free from outside harm, that's exactly what he does. Johnson gets so many memorable hero moments that it's impossible to pick just one, though we are partial to the scene in this latest installment of the series (Furious 7) where he "checks himself out" of the hospital.
1. Pain and Gain
For our number one choice, we went out of a limb and picked what, for us, is the moment when The Rock went from athlete-turned-actor to star in his own right. Michael Bay, himself a fan of bombast and excess, took the true story of a horrible crime involving kidnapping, torture, extortion, and murder and made it into a weird amalgamation of comedy and very cruel jokes. Among all the chaos sits Johnson, playing a former convict/cokehead turned born-again Jesus freak who tries to avoid temptation while earning enough money to help he and his buddies live out their dreams. He's terrific, but the film itself is far from it.
List This Southland Tales Fast Five Fast & Furious Six Furious 7 Pain and Gain Faster The Other Guys The Rundown Gridiron Gang The Tooth Fairy The Scorpion King Michael Bay Be Cool