Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) 'The Cobbler' Reviews: 'Makes Me Want to Upgrade Everything I've Ever Seen Half a Star' 'The Cobbler' Reviews: 'Makes Me Want to Upgrade Everything I've Ever Seen Half a Star' 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them': 'Between Just Enough and a Bit Too Much' 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them': 'Between Just Enough and a Bit Too Much' Daily Reads: The Death of Adulthood, the Future of Film in 'Snowpiercer' and More Daily Reads: The Death of Adulthood, the Future of Film in 'Snowpiercer' and More Kevin Smith Is OK With Critics Now Kevin Smith Is OK With Critics Now Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' 'Phoenix' Reviews: A Postwar-set Masterwork By Way of 'Vertigo' 'Phoenix' Reviews: A Postwar-set Masterwork By Way of 'Vertigo' 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them Criticwire Classic of the Week: Federico Fellini's '8 1/2' Criticwire Classic of the Week: Federico Fellini's '8 1/2' 'The Duke of Burgundy': With Butterflies and BDSM, a Kinky Romance Woos Critics 'The Duke of Burgundy': With Butterflies and BDSM, a Kinky Romance Woos Critics 'Men, Women & Children': Frowny Face Emoticon 'Men, Women & Children': Frowny Face Emoticon Kevin Smith Turns to Horror With 'Tusk,' and the Results Are Insane: First Reviews Kevin Smith Turns to Horror With 'Tusk,' and the Results Are Insane: First Reviews 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham Did 'Edge of Tomorrow' Just Get a New Title for Home Video? Did 'Edge of Tomorrow' Just Get a New Title for Home Video? 'The Maze Runner' First Reviews: Once More Around the Dystopian YA Block 'The Maze Runner' First Reviews: Once More Around the Dystopian YA Block Now Streaming: 'Ida,' 'Last Year at Marienbad' and 'A Woman is a Woman' Now Streaming: 'Ida,' 'Last Year at Marienbad' and 'A Woman is a Woman' Daily Reads: The Disgusting But Important 'Wetlands,' Comic Book Movies That Thankfully Never Happened and More Daily Reads: The Disgusting But Important 'Wetlands,' Comic Book Movies That Thankfully Never Happened and More 'The Counselor's Extended Cut Is Inspired Madness 'The Counselor's Extended Cut Is Inspired Madness

When Wrestlers Act: Blood, Sweat and Canvas

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire March 27, 2014 at 3:15PM

What happens when wrestlers get in the filmmaking ring?
0
Johnson

A great piece by Adam Nayman from the forthcoming issue of Cinema Scope traces the history of professional wrestlers on film with particular attention the film-producing career of the WWE. Here he is on Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) in "Pain & Gain."

Johnson’s wrestling stardom was predicated on the post-kayfabe recognition of his own ridiculousness: decked out in gaudy suits and sunglasses, shamelessly spouting catchphrases in between boasts, the character nodded to Thunderlips et al while raising one skeptical eyebrow at the entire show. That same self-awareness pervaded Johnson’s performances in kiddie flicks ("The Tooth Fairy," 2010) and auteur works ("Southland Tales," 2006) alike, but in "Pain & Gain" he touches on comic genius by inhabiting Doyle's perplexed anguish rather than mocking it. He’s a straight arrow bent so grotesquely out of shape as to become (lethally) weaponized, and while Michael Bay's oddly Coenesque comedy is hardly an exercise in empathy -- for its characters or its audience, which it all but piledrives into submission -- one wonders if Johnson isn't in some way pouring one out for all his predecessors and peers consumed by their appetites. At the same time, his indelible acting in a movie with its share of critical champions will hopefully serve to remove some of the stigma from the history of wrestlers-turned-actors -- a minor but refreshingly unpremeditated victory.

Traditionally, wrestling movies have been the lowest rung on the Hollywood totem pole: Not for nothing do Joel and Ethan Coen drive home the abasement of "Barton Fink's" titular playwright by assigning him to a Wallace Beery picture. ("Whaddya need, a road map?") But at least a few, especially those, like Johnson or Andre "The Giant" Roussimouff have found success by playing against their tough-guy images -- or, in Johnson's case, playing into and against it at the same time. For obvious reasons, wrestlers are often called up on to play the heavy -- see the other Johnson, Tor, in "Plan 9 From Outer Space," above -- but it often works best when they bring some lightness with them as well.


E-Mail Updates