Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jason Statham have had very similar acting careers if you actually look at them. Both broke through in a genre, for Statham gangster films, for Johnson fantasy adventure, before both moved into creating action movies, although it is fair to say that Johnson has had far more financial success. Now a lot of these movies aren’t great, but the two have been brought together by The Fast and the Furious franchise, and are co-starring in its ninth film The Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, so I decided to look back over my favourite films from each actor. As always, these lists are just my opinions and I’d love to hear your favourites in the comments.
5) Hercules – I wrote my dissertation at University on how the character of Heracles/Hercules has been portrayed in film, so even though there are very few good films about the mythical hero I have a big soft spot for them. What this iteration of Hercules does so well is reflect a more modern view of realism on these stories, rather than taking the more literal approach. There are question marks over whether the stories are true or merely a clever mythos built around Hercules by Iolaus, the storyteller, and the rest of Hercules’ entourage. Johnson himself is certainly built like a fitting Hercules, and fits that role well, and it was an interesting take on an ancient character.
4) The Mummy Returns – Dwayne Johnson’s first real foray into acting saw him appear as the Scorpion King at the end of The Mummy Returns. Whilst the CGI on Johnson is awful in retrospect, I’m sure it seemed awesome at the time, the character was a cool antagonist providing a threat to both Rick and Imhotep. Yes Johnson isn’t really in a lot of the film, and was instead fleshed out more in the awful The Scorpion King spin off, but I enjoy the central Mummy franchise, so it makes it onto this list.
3) Fast Five – Fast Five was really the film that catapulted Dwayne Johnson into international movie stardom, whilst also reinvigorating the Fast and Furious franchise in most people’s eyes. This is still the series’ high point to this day and it blended the big action of the later installments with the crime film aspect that the series was founded on, something that has been lost as they’ve become more and more generic action flicks. Johnson and Vin Diesel play off one another so well in this film, and that’s been lost as the two refuse to work with one another, and that’s a real shame, because it certainly helped to make Fast Five a lot of fun.
2) Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle – I don’t think many people were expecting much when we heard there was to be a sequel to the Robin Williams classic Jumaji. But, despite very much taking the franchise in a different direction, Welcome to the Jungle was a great fantasy adventure comedy. Johnson is very much the straight man in the film allowing Jack Black and Kevin Hart to deliver the comedy. Karen Gillan is also superb in the film, and it is that core of four actors and all the differences they bring that made Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle such a hit.
1) Moana – Moana is one of the best Disney animated films since the Disney Renaissance era in the 90s. Drawing from Polynesian mythology around the demigod Māui, and how he is recruited by the daughter of a Polynesian chief to help return the heart of the goddess Te Fiti. The way Maui is portrayed in the film he is very much Dwayne Johnson in animated form, although with far more luscious flowing hair, and it is easily the best work that Johnson has ever done. And although he’s clearly not the strongest singer in the world, he makes his musical number ‘Your Welcome’ work. It is fair to say I’d love to see Johnson do more work like Moana rather than more unoriginal action movies.
5) Death Race – Death Race certainly isn’t a great film, but as an action thriller I did have fun with it, and I like Statham as a lead. The rest of the cast is great as well especially Ian McShane, but also the likes of Joan Allen, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Clarke, and they even bring in a cameo return of David Carradine from the original Death Race Film. Death Race is big and ridiculous with plenty of Paul W. S. Anderson’s signature flair.
4) Gnomeo and Juliet – Whilst Sherlock Gnomes might have been a bridge too far, Gnomeo and Juliet was a fun twist on the classic Shakespearean tale. Statham plays Tybalt, Gnomeo’s rival. The film was fun, sweet, and a highly original idea that was a surprising hit. Tybalt is a great foil for Gnomeo, hot headed in so many of the same ways, but with that little bit of edge that Statham brings to his characters. He also helps provide one of the genuinely emotional moments of the film, when he gets accidentally smashed.
3) The Meg – The Meg is a film that deviates wildly between a genuinely solid and entertaining shark movie, and a film that is so stupid, with so little thought put into it that you can’t help but have fun with it. It is both one of the most impressive technical achievements in the genre of films, with a stunning realised shark, and one of the most over the top ridiculous films ever. If you don’t come out of The Meg having enjoyed yourself despite the quality of the storytelling and characters, then I’ll be shocked.
2) Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – Statham’s first film role was as Bacon in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Bacon is one of the group of four core small-time criminals who end up badly in debt to gangster “Hatchet” Harry Lonsdale. Whilst Statham isn’t the main character out of the four, he made an impression, and that is why he’s gone on to be such a success. He clearly made an impact with Ritchie as he went on to lead in his next film Snatch. Speaking of which.
1) Snatch – Following on from Lock, Stock Statham and Guy Ritchie reunited once more to create what is still the highlight of both their careers, Snatch. A British comedy crime film featuring a sprawling cast of acclaimed actors Snatch is one of the great British films. With so many different plot threads and character Snatch could easily have become a big mess, but it is actually held together expertly by Ritchie. Statham is excellent as Turkish, the small time boxing promoter who finds himself falling foul of gangster Brick Top. I miss seeing Statham in these kind of British crime films, where he wasn’t always playing the hard man or the action star, instead he’s a more interesting character.